Chinatown’s Josiah Quincy Elementary School community was hit hard by the pandemic, but school librarian Heidi Boulogne is hoping to rebuild through books.
“Over the past year our students have endured trauma, loss of social connection, fear associated with the pandemic, in addition to the social unrest we currently face. Our community needs to heal, and the healing needs to start with our children. Our students love books. They love coming to the library and would appreciate having new books to borrow!”
“Our community needs to heal, and the healing needs to start with our children.”
Josiah Quincy Elementary is the winner of this year’s Shelf Help Partnership for elementary students and will be treated to a very special author visit organized by Wondermore, a local nonprofit dedicated to bringing authors to children in underserved communities. In addition, the school will receive new books, curated by Boulogne, to fill the shelves with titles that meet the school’s population.
“As a multicultural school we are currently trying to increase our culturally diverse texts for our Black and LatinX students, and find books celebrating Asian heritage. Students are happy to see books with characters that look like them and that celebrate their culture. It is also important for our students to see realities and experiences different from their own,” says Boulogne, an attorney-turned-school librarian.
“Students are happy to see books with characters that look like them and that celebrate their culture. It is also important for our students to see realities and experiences different from their own.”
Fondly referred to as JQES, this school serves over 850 students grades pre-K through 5th grade, with over 70% of the school’s families are functioning at or below the poverty level. “Our school does not have an annual budget for library books or author visits and so we rely on grants and fundraising to support the library,” says Boulogne. She has selected dozens of titles that reflect the kids that visit her space each day, from Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali’s The Proudest Blue to Andrea Wang and Jason Chin’s Watercress.
Books can be bought and donated by accessing Josiah Quincy’s wish list here, or you can also visit the BBF’s donate page to donate directly! Upon checking out, select “Make this a gift” and designate “Shelf Help” as the gift recipient in the appropriate box.
When Trenton Bordok, who is starting his third year as a librarian at Chelsea High School, heard the news that his library was the winner of this year’s BBF Shelf Help Award, he was so excited he stood on his chair, raised his arms in victory and exclaimed, “Yes!”
“My students here were surprised by my reaction when I read your email,” he says, adding, “This is fantastic news for our school community.”
Chelsea High School’s library was selected from a competitive pool of applicants for this year’s Shelf Help Award in the high school category. Shelf Help winners are treated to a special author visit organized by Wondermore, a local non-profit dedicated to bringing authors into underserved communities. The grant also raises funds from BBF festival-goers and the public to expand the library’s book offerings with books selected by Bordok to reflect the school community.
Chelsea’s student population is nearly 90% Hispanic, most of which are immigrants, says Bordok. It’s a community he enjoys working in. “My colleagues here are so motivated to do well for these kids, not just in the classroom but as good citizens. They care about them and want them to do well.” He says the students love reading graphic novels and manga. He is hoping the visit by a well-known author — the first of its kind at Chelsea — will help him toward his goal of building a culture of reading at the school.
“My colleagues here are so motivated to do well for these kids, not just in the classroom but as good citizens. They care about them and want them to do well.”
The library, he says, is usually bustling, with students there getting work done and socializing. “It’s a place for time off,” he says. Bordok hopes to build on that momentum to get students interested in the books that surround them there. Another motivator for applying for the Shelf Help grant was to stock Chelsea’s library with more books that will interest his diverse population of students. His list includes titles such as I was their American dream: A graphic memoir by Malaka Gharib and African American Inventors: Overcoming challenges to change by Sophie Washburne. (Donate here to help Chelsea add these titles to its library collection.)
Many books were sent home with kids during the pandemic and most were never brought back.
“New books are always incredible,” says Bordok. Getting new books into his library has never been so essential. Many books were sent home with kids during the pandemic and most were never brought back. The Shelf Help Grant will provide an opportunity to replenish the shelves and ensure that the titles in Chelsea’s library reflect the kids who visit there every day.
Bordok says the whole school community is excited about winning Shelf Help and he sees it as a great opportunity. “I’m looking forward to bringing the library and what we have to offer to the school’s attention.”
Books can be bought and donated directly from Chelsea High School’s wish list here or by visiting BBF’s donate page. Upon checking out, select “Make this a gift” and designate “Shelf Help” as the gift recipient in the appropriate box.