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Great Kids in our Midst

by Christine Pinkney - 0 Comment(s)

It’s not too often that a young Calgarian gets to shake hands with our Premier. At the Fantasyland Hotel Ballroom on October 16th, Aminah Farzana got to do just that.

Aminah was one of 16 recipients from around the province (and one of just four in her age category) to receive a Great Kids Award for 2010. These Awards are given by the Government of Alberta to recognize youth who demonstrate compassion, determination, courage, generosity, and strength of spirit. (You can learn more about the Great Kids Awards here and watch a video of the ceremony here.)

A frequent volunteer with the Calgary Public Library, Aminah was a natural choice for this nomination and we are so pleased she was selected as a winner! She’s made quite an impact on the world around her already.

Aminah came to Canada at the age of seven. Returning to Bangladesh at age ten for a visit, Aminah was struck by the poverty there. "This experience made me thankful to be in Canada, because although my mom was from a middle class family, my dad grew up in a very poor family. My dad managed to break the cycle of poverty through education, and he inspired me to take education more seriously. Now, I'm a firm believer of 'the pen is mightier than the sword' and I hope to engage myself in a profession that will allow me to give back to the society that I am a part of, and that is part of me."

The Library has four programs supported by youth volunteers, and Aminah has volunteered with all four. She has been a technology coach for young children and seniors alike, tailoring lessons to differing ages and skills levels. A self-described "big fan of books", Aminah has shared this fondness with younger readers. More recently, she has led engaging activities for her newcomer peers, encouraging them to develop their spoken English in ESL Teen Talk.

Throughout her volunteer career, Aminah has had a hand in opening the door to new worlds of education, inspiration, and enjoyment.She has found volunteering to be beneficial for herself as well as those she helps. "The hours I put into volunteering give me a sense of fulfillment because I'm doing something productive by helping others."

Aminah's contributions don't stop there. Active in her school community, Aminah is a valued member of the Social Justice Club. Her commitment to thoughtfully living her values, sharing her views respectfully, and hearing others with the same respect, has made an impression on her teachers and fellow students. Her Social Studies teacher has this to say:

“Over the course of the last two years, Aminah has become an active citizen trying to raise awareness and arouse action in relation to her passion for ending discrimination and prejudice. In particular, she spearheaded and spent countless hours on a ‘Safe Classrooms’ campaign in which she designed, created and then posted ceiling-to-floor posters which depict the various religions, ethnicities, gender and sexual identifications represented at our high school. This visible demonstration against the marginalization of minorities got students and teachers alike talking about who makes up our communities and what it means to be a global, engaged citizen.”

Along with a sleek statue for her memento shelf, Aminah received a new IBM ThinkPad laptop, a gift certificate for her and her family to enjoy the attractions at West Edmonton Mall, and other gifts.

Congratulations, Aminah!!

Kung Fu Reading!

by Christine Pinkney - 0 Comment(s)

Meet Paul, TD Read with Me Volunteer

Paul Jassar enjoys working with kids and, according to my pre-teen source, the feeling is mutual. The tall basketball player is easy-going and calm with a good sense of humour. Currently enrolled in the final year of his elementary education degree, Paul volunteers because 'it’s a chance to feel a sense of community and help out those who are a part of it. Volunteering also allows me to network and meet new people and that is important to me’.

Paul began working with Tony, his little buddy in the TD Read With Me program in January 2009. Tony, a cheerful and energetic boy, hasn’t always been the most enthusiastic of readers and had a short attention span for the process when they first began working together.

Tony is a big martial arts fan, so in some sessions when Paul noticed Tony’s focus was starting to wane after they’d read for a while, they would go into the library stacks to find books on martial arts, read about some of the stances or moves and then quietly practice them together. Over time, Tony’s attention span and appreciation for reading have developed and today, he regards himself as a ‘reader’.

Tony had the following comments about Paul in October 2010:

‘I think he’s a really positive person. He’s a good person to work with and a fun person to play with…a good partner. We don’t always read together right away; sometimes we play games or go on the computer. He discusses about something and tries to cheer me up.

He’s helped me a lot. Now I can actually read chapter books and I’ve improved so much. He helped me break the letters up’.

According to Lieu, Tony’s mom, ‘Paul is really trustworthy, a good teacher and person’.

Paul and Tony plan to continue working together for at least the rest of the 2010-2011 school year. While Tony will ‘graduate’ from the TD Read With Me program sometime next year, the legacy and benefits of the fun and learning he’s shared with Paul through the program will last a lifetime.

Reading Advantage 10 year anniversary

by Christine Pinkney - 0 Comment(s)

According to a comprehensive study by Statistics Canada over 40 per cent of Canadian adults do not have strong literacy skills.

This fall the Calgary Public Library’s adult literacy program, Reading Advantage, celebrates its ten year anniversary. Since the program’s inception, volunteers have helped hundreds of Calgarians improve their literacy skills.

Reading Advantage Volunteer Award winner (2009), Danielle, and her learner, Trevor, share the benefits of the program from both the volunteer and the learner perspective:

Trevor and I have been meeting for 5 years. We meet every Saturday at the library and work through various topics of interest. We both feel that the Reading Advantage Program has given us opportunities to grow. Trevor feels like he has enhanced his skills with computers, job searches and reading capabilities. I feel like this program has given me a new perspective of different learners and their needs. As an elementary school teacher, I am grateful to be able to work with a learner with differing needs and I believe this opportunity has improved my teaching skills. We both have a level of trust for one another and look forward to our meetings each week.

If you are interested in learning more about the Reading Advantage program, please contact Emily Robinson Leclair by telephone (403) 260-2729 or email

A Stellar Volunteer!

by Christine Pinkney - 0 Comment(s)

“Ella is so kind.”

“Ella is super-positive.”

“She is soooo nice.”

These are a few of the rave reviews that youth volunteer Ella Li has received lately. Animated and light-hearted, Ella has an easy laugh that brightens the room.

In Summer 2009 Ella joined the Calgary Public Library volunteer team and she’s been brightening up program rooms and computer labs ever since! Ella heard about the Library’s volunteer programs from her friend Zoey and thought it would be “a very good chance to experience something new”. As a Computer Buddy, Ella helps younger buddies develop computer skills. Through fun projects and activities, they practice safe Internet searching and Microsoft Office programs like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Ella says, “I love to be around children, especially the energetic ones. Watching them laugh makes me really fulfilled.”

In Summer 2010 Ella tried out another program. “I really enjoy the ESL Teen Talk program. I met lots of new people, they are really fun and nice to be around. Once we played a game [that] involved earning points. I remember my group was scared to answer the hard questions at first, but after half an hour we were all in a really hyper mood. Even the most quiet people raised their hands to answer. We couldn't wait to answer the next question. Everybody was so involved, because we all worked together.” All that teamwork was for the best – her team won the game, and became better friends too.

Ella has many interests, including badminton, tennis, art, calligraphy, and guitar. Besides volunteering with the Calgary Public Library she has also volunteered helping young children at Chinese school.

Thank you, Ella, for bringing laughter and fun to the Library’s youth volunteer programs!

A 'Real' Book!

by Christine Pinkney - 0 Comment(s)

TD Sparks uses the library once a week, and was intrigued when he saw an advertisement for Living Library volunteers. He explains, “It was painless to volunteer. I just clicked on the website.”

The Living Library works exactly like your local library – readers can borrow a “book”. The difference is: books in the Living Library are people, “living books,” with whom the reader can have a conversation.

This unique program enables people to ask the questions they have always wanted to ask and to share stories about their personal experiences in a safe and welcoming environment.

TD’s book title is Recovering from Addiction and Alcoholism: 17 years and counting and reflects his personal history as a former foster child and his journey through addiction recovery. TD says his story has two main features: it's about ending the patterns of a life of addiction and abuse, and it is also about discovering success in the performing art of magic and balloon sculpting. TD used magic as "occupational therapy" channeling the negative energy of his addictions into the positive energy of performing. Sixteen years later he is still clean and sober and performing has become his day job. One reader commented, “The honesty was overwhelming. The half hour was packed with useful information. I gained a deeper understanding of addiction. Wonderful program!” Another reader also gave TD a glowing review, “Wonderful experience, well-spoken, well-informed and the sort of book in which only the ‘real’ McCoy will do! He was ‘experience talking’. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thanks TD”

TD believes society should not turn their eyes away from any issue, or hide behind closed doors, because we will not be able to solve problems by not dealing with them. His willingness to share his struggles make his book quite popular and at the first Living Library program at Fish Creek he was ‘checked out’ all day. TD has even been interviewed by CBC Radio during a Living Library at the Central library and by Global TV. TD Sparks not only exemplifies the best qualities of a volunteer, he is also an amazing advocate for Calgary Public Library and all its services.

Thank you TD!

Volunteer Recognition Event April 23, 2010

by Christine Pinkney - 0 Comment(s)

Congratulations to our Volunteer Award Winners for 2010:

25 Years of Service- Robert High

Career Coaching- Janeen Scott

Computer Buddies- Julia Schade

Computer Technology- Liela Chan and Peggy Jubien

ESL Conversation Club- Barry Simpkins

Homebound Readers- Carol Sinclair

Homework Help- Kim Koch

Libraries in Residence- Nellie Wojtaszek

TD Read With Me- Joan Buhr

Reading Advantage-Fiona Pinnel

Reading Buddies- Charanpreet Gill

Spanish Conversation Club-William Jiménez

Family Award- Carlos Vidal Wu and Susana Lui Colan

John Dutton Volunteer of the Year:

Gloria Rasmussen

Gerry Meek, CEO of Calgary Public Library, with Gloria Rasmussen and Jamie Niessen, Chair of the Calgary Public Library Board.

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