Revitalizing Linden’s Libraries, Creating Emotional Connection to the World Around Us Through Books
Since her return to The LInden School, Associate Principal Tonja Armstrong-MacInnis has been committed to reviving and evolving a beloved tradition at Linden: the Birthday Book Program. We spoke with Tonja to find out more.
Why was reviving this program a top priority for you?
I wanted to replenish our books, to keep them current and keep Linden’s libraries reflective of the changing social climate, allowing our students to stay connected with what is happening in the world around us. Books are valuable in that they connect us to people’s lives, and to things that are happening in the world that we can take a deep dive into as we explore multiple perspectives and contexts.
How does the program work?
Linden purchased a number of books at all levels recommended by faculty and other members of our community. Some books were destined for the main library and others would be added to classroom libraries. Over many days in early October, we displayed all the books in the Linden Library and gave students the opportunity to choose a book that they may have read, would like to read or resonated with them for different reasons. Students were then invited to complete a dedication panel in the book using a printed template and a special pen.
How did the students respond to the opportunity to choose and dedicate a library book in honour of their birthday?
It was a joy to watch our students engage in this process. As students looked at the covers of the books, read different book synopsis, accompanying teachers could see and hear that some books were bringing out an emotional connection and memories for our students. Some comments were made about the books bringing up certain feelings and some students remembered that a book was on their reading list or had been recommended to them. The process also sparked conversation about books students had read recently, and also fond recollections of books they had read as younger children. Not only that, they embraced the importance, the privilege, and the ceremonial nature of honouring someone by dedicating a book to them. They were very thoughtful and meticulous about their choices of honorees and their choices of words, which has led us to rename the initiative -
Students’ choices included their teachers, themselves and their siblings. The delight and excitement in choosing a new book and recognizing books that they have read was so wonderful to witness.
Do any dedications stand out for you?
Books can evoke intense emotion and feeling. Grade 9 student Nasinya chose “Pourquoi j'aime ma maman” and dedicated it to her own mother, Miriam. When Miriam saw the dedication, she wrote “It warmed my heart to remember that book, and has made me feel warm and fuzzy that Nasi would dedicate it to me. What a great idea to have a book dedication program like this.”
How does this program reflect our commitment to equity?
In some institutions, only families who have sufficient financial resources to make a donation are given a chance to dedicate a book. Linden is committed to equity and so we offered all students this opportunity. Books that were purchased this year align with our values of justice and social connection.
What are your hopes for the future of the program?
We have purchased some books from an independent business and we are going to keep that partnership going. They are going to introduce our school to community organizations with a view to creating partnerships and sharing our love of books. In future years, we hope to donate books to local community groups, and have teachers and students make connections to curriculum areas through presentations, book reviews, and continued book suggestions.