Originating in Denmark as a means to educate youth and in turn reduce violence, the Human Library has since spread across the globe. In October, Gladstone Secondary students participated in their own Human Library, organized by Teacher Librarian Pat Parungao.
Members of the public and staff volunteered their time as "living books" for the day. Students visited with the human books and had the unique opportunity to listen and speak with a wide variety of experts.
"It's a wonderful experience," said Gladstone teacher Jeff Steudel. "Because some of the human books are Gladstone staff members, students get to know them in a different way. They see that they have a history and life outside of school."
Living books may be leaders in their field, or they may also people who have had interesting life experiences. Many speak to the misconceptions around stereotypes in the workplace.
"I learned that when it comes to addiction, it is less important to know what they're addicted to or how addicted they are," said Vivian Lam a Grade 12 writing student who spent one of her sessions with an ex-addict. "But what made them get addicted - what problem, what trauma has caused them to resort to using drugs or alcohol to help them cope."
When asked about her time with the city coroner Lam added, "I thought it sounded like a depressing job, but it makes you feel better as a person. Reminding you to appreciate every day of life."
Some of the books that were available were: a first time parent, a hockey player, a city coroner, a firefighter, and a parole officer (all of whom were women). Students also had a chance to meet with a Buddist monk, a Metis/Cree person, a nurse, someone with ADD, a WWII Veteran and many more.
One of the tenets of the Human Library is to explore the effects of prejudice, stigma, and discrimination in our society. When asked what she had learned from the Human Library, Miley Leong a Grade 12 student said "Ignorance is sadly universal and it's our job to take action and dismiss them."
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