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Blessings, friendship and the power of Charlotte’s Web in Innisfail

Innisfail’s St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School completes second annual school-wide BEAR Book Read-Aloud, a month-long school-wide project to focus on literacy

INNISFAIL – For an entire month at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School there was a special story going around about a friendship between a doomed little pig, a caring little girl and a heroic spider.

Their worlds changed in the story from worry and distress to ones of wonder.

And it also positively impacted the lives of hundreds in the school’s community.

This all came about during the school’s second annual month-long BEAR Book Read-Aloud project, which began with a kick-off event on Feb. 26 and concluding on April 4 with a Family Movie Night.

Selena Frizzley, assistant principal at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School, said for the second annual event it was decided to have the classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web by American author E. B. White.

She said the month-long project included the entire 320-student body from pre-K to Grade 9.

“We really wanted to focus in on literacy and building those skills within our students and really to foster that love of reading,” said Frizzley. “We wanted to connect with our community, so we had community members as guest readers for each chapter.”

Guest readers included parent council members, school teachers, educational assistants, former staff members, and Father Curtis Berube, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Innisfail.

“As a school, we follow the calendar and the students would be listening to the same chapter every day in the morning,” said Frizzley.

The book, which was first published in 1952, tells the story of a livestock pig named Wilbur, who is the runt of a litter of piglets. He is cared for by a little girl named Fern Arable.

However, as Wilbur grows he is sold to Fern's uncle, Homer Zuckerman, who puts him in a barnyard where there is no companionship and is snubbed by the other animals.

But Wilbur does find friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte.

Wilbur is about to be slaughtered and Charlotte has promised to find a way to save his life.

 The spider then writes messages in her web praising Wilbur, such as "Some Pig",  "Humble", to persuade the farmer to let him live.
Charlotte’s Web thus becomes a “miracle’ of sorts, and Wilbur becomes a huge public attraction.

Frizzley said Charlotte’s Web has a strong message that ties in with the school’s cherished four educational pillars that come together under the acronym of B.E.A.R: I am a Blessing, I am Empathetic, I am an Ambassador and I am Reliable.

“It has a strong message about the importance of friendship and being a blessing to each other, so we tied it in that way too,” said Frizzley. “And how students can be blessings to each other, and that importance of friendship and what a true friend is.”

As the BEAR Book Read-Aloud is a school-wide project, staff members not only embraced the message but added special touches of artistic realism.

Dana Lacombe is a Grade 5 teacher at St. Marguerite, and a member of the school’s literacy group.

“Each one of us took on a different role to create something, whether it be a visual piece or literature, or the assembly, or slideshows, or reading or writing organizing readings,” said Lacombe. “My role was to create a display in the front foyer to bring Charlotte's Web to life.

“We created what looked like a farm with all the different characters and props and different things. Each week or even each day there would be new characters introduced in the story for the students to see,” she said, adding students were not involved.

“It was more a gift to them. It was kind of a surprise to them to see and find new things each time. They weren't involved directly with making anything or setting anything up.

“But they were involved in terms of being able to live the story in real life,” said Lacombe, adding the visual display was an essential part of the overall project.

“It's a key piece to have buy-in from the students and to have engagement from them,” she added. “Having something to actually see; to be able to connect with what you're learning with is very important.

“And building the excitement and having the engagement of the students is really important to keep them wanting to hear the story and wanting to be a part of it.”

Grade 3 teacher Meghan Hebert said it was never a problem during the month-long project to keep her students engaged.

Hebert said it was special because it gave the pre-K to Grade 9 school body a sense of belonging to a community.

“It's a story about friendship, and doing everything for your friends, and always being together,” said Hebert. “I think that is something our school is really trying to promote; the idea of friendship, and it doesn't matter if we're different.

“It's just how we treat each other is what is important.”


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