REVIEWED BY JON SOROKOWSKI
Teachers can now rely on many books to help them and their schools explore their role in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools by Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse (Portage and Main Press, 2018) is one such resource, highly recommended for teachers beginning their journey to provide education for reconciliation.
The first half of the book gives readers background about the legacies of residential schools, the Indigenous peoples of Canada and their contributions, the treaties, and the sacred circle teachings. In the first chapter, Dr. Toulouse weaves stories of her grandmother’s residential school experience with historical fact, contrasting traditional ways of knowing with the harsh realities of the residential school system. Throughout this section, photographs, figures, and tables accompany the text, along with literacy connections. Dr. Toulouse includes excellent book recommendations for all grade levels (yes, K-12!). Acknowledging the fear that many teachers hold about teaching about residential schools, Dr. Toulouse positions literacy as a powerful means to “transform the listener, reader, or viewer and connect them to the lives of these [residential school] survivors by building a bridge that transcends history and time” (p. 12). Teachers will find that the first section provides a broad and helpful mix of story and fact. Further, the curricular connections throughout – not limited to English and social studies – are valuable, highlighting the many ways Indigenous worldviews can be seamlessly integrated into teaching and learning.
The second half of the book features lesson plans rooted in Indigenous pedagogy, developing students’ spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual selves. Dr. Toulouse presents one lesson plan per grade level, which are organized into four themes that fit like a glove with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action for age-appropriate curriculum. The themes are:
The primary lessons focus on introducing students to Mother Nature and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Learning about treaties and contributions in the upper elementary years paves the way for students to learn about troubling history as they move into middle school. Residential schools are introduced in the Grade 6 lesson, which uses Nicola I. Campbell’s Shi-shi-etko as a text. Middle school students then participate in the Blanket Exercise. Moving into high school, students build on the truth they learn by being invited to participate in reconciliation. The lesson series culminates in Grade 12 with students forming an authentic, long-lasting relationship with “an Indigenous community, group, organization, cause, family, or person” (p. 139). Subject adaptations, background information, extensions, and assessment tips are included.
School leaders may consider implementing the entire lesson series as a school-wide initiative, and teachers will find the lessons provide many ideas to extend learning beyond one or two days. Teachers may also consider supplementing their teachings with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba’s Treaty Education Initiative.
Dr. Toulouse’s must-read Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools equips teachers with the knowledge and tools to begin or to fine-tune their teaching about Indigenous peoples, residential schools, and contemporary issues.
Editor's Note: The Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg thanks Portage and Main Press, who provided RCGW with a complimentary copy to review.
About the Reviewer – Jon Sorokowski the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg's editor and membership director. He serves as co-chair for the Manitoba Reading Association's 5th Adolescent Literacy Summit. A middle-school English Language Arts and Mathematics teacher, Jon believes in the power of learning to transform lives and to build a more informed, thoughtful society.
WRITTEN BY BRITTANY BELL
On behalf of the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg, I have prepared the I Love to Read Month Choice Board. The RCGW is a group of dedicated educators who meet monthly to share and work to promote knowledge and awareness of lifelong literacy and learning.
“I Love to Read Month” is a month long celebration that is held each year to encourage reading, writing, and sharing in the joy of literacy. Please share the choice board with teachers, students and their families. It would make a great addition to your school newsletter. I have included activities for students of all ages to have them explore different ways of engaging with literacy. My hope is that students will see and experience how exciting and joyful literacy can be, as well as how far literacy reaches in our lives. Students are encouraged to cross off the literacy activities as they complete them, much like completing a bingo card. Teachers and parents may choose to provide incentives for students when they complete a row/column or when the board is completed. I hope that both teachers and students will have fun with the suggested activities and that they will challenge the students to learn something new. I also hope that families will be able to share the excitement of reading and writing together.
In addition to the choice board, I am planning to return to the Cancer Care Unit at the Children’s Hospital, where I will make a donation of books selected by the RCGW board members, as well as a monetary donation so that the staff can continue to update their children’s and teen’s libraries and magazine subscriptions. This provides children, teens, as well as parents with reading materials that are appealing and entertaining, as well as supportive.
The RCGW thanks you for sharing this choice board with teachers and families. In doing so, you are helping to empower our students to make the world a better place.
About the Author – Brittany Bell is the I Love to Read Chair on the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg and is an elementary school teacher.
The Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg is very sorry to inform its membership of the recent passing of Canadian literacy leader David Booth. David had a tremendous influence on our literacy lives and education for decades. Stenhouse has shared a tribute. Our sincere condolences to David's family.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: Tuesday, May 21 at École Victoria-Albert School (4:30-6 PM). Please contact President Leslie Dickson if you will be attending.
We welcome article and book review submissions from RCGW members and supporters of literacy. For more information, please email the editor.