Flipping Pages and Pancakes: John M. King School Celebrates Community Involvement and Cultural Diversity in "I Love to Read" Month

Anything fun goes when it comes to inspiring children to read, and this February John M. King School featured book draws, trivia, bingos and a large cast of guest readers in their classrooms to share why they love to read.

The month began on February 2 with the school’s first annual “Pancakes, Pyjamas and Picture Books” event. Guests from the community and parents of the students joined kids to enjoy pancakes and read books together at the nursery to grade six school.

Principal Tasia Karagiannis Bell says all these events foster a love of reading in students that goes beyond the classroom. “We want our school to be an extension of the home,” Karagiannis Bell said.

Something Karagiannis Bell and all the teachers at John M. King are acutely aware of and appreciate about their West End student body is its unique cultural diversity. Fifty-nine percent of the students are self-declared Indigenous, and 40% speak at least one other language besides English. According to Karagiannis Bell, the school sees this melting pot of cultures as another learning opportunity for students, as well as for all the teachers.

“We're a community that wants to celebrate every culture, and we want all of our students to learn about the different cultures… even understanding that there's different foods that they bring for lunch,” Karagiannis Bell said. “Learning about different cultures I think breaks down those biases. We're all human beings first."

Trustee Dante Aviso wanted to read to John M. King students because he first started to learn English while living in the Philippines with a Canadian book. “I was like six years old,” Aviso recalled. “My first children's books came from Canada because my sister was already here. She sent me an alphabet book. I remember it was Ladybird or Ladybug. So that's how I learned my basic English by learning the alphabet.”

Having community members like Aviso be so invested in the school is one of Karagiannis Bell’s favorite things about working at John M. King. “Community is so important to us as a school because we're an extension of the community,” Karagiannis Bell said. “We want our community and our families to feel welcome in our building at all times… We really appreciate them."

Daniel McIntyre-Ridd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf