Written by Jon Sorokowski
Once August arrives, we in the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg begin to think about September and our incoming groups of students. We tweak our trusted approaches and search for new gems with the energy that accompanies the excitement of a new school year. Here are exciting resources we are using to help us create a culture of literacy from Day One in our schools.
About the Author – Jon Sorokowski edits the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg’s Blog and is on its Board. He teaches at a French Immersion middle school in Winnipeg and is the Co-chair of the Manitoba Reading Association’s 6th Adolescent Literacy Summit, to be held in April 2021 at the Victoria Inn in Winnipeg.
We want you! The Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg (RCGW) seeks to recruit dedicated teachers to volunteer on its Board of Directors.
Dedicated to the promotion of literacy and the development of lifelong readers, RCGW has been a leader since 1956. We are a supportive group of new and experienced teachers from K-12. Joining the board broadens your network and strengthens your leadership skills. We are looking to recruit volunteers for the following roles.
In addition to our monthly board meetings, each position generally involves two to three hours of independent and collaborative work every month.
Finally, if you're not sure about any of these positions, we invite you to attend a meeting to learn what we're about. Please contact Jon Sorokowski if you have questions or if you'd like to join.
We can't wait to see you!
Last school year, the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg launched a new Literacy Grants program. We received many project proposals from our members seeking to access $500 to fund community-based literacy projects. After much deliberation, we awarded the first two grants to École St. Malo School and the St. James-Assiniboia SD Summer Library Pilot Project. Write-ups about their projects are below.
We will hopefully be able to offer another call for Literacy Grant proposals this fall. Members: Check your inboxes and our website for details.
Little Free Library – École St. Malo School
PROJECT LEADER: RACHAEL MONT
When I told the students of École St Malo School that we had received a $500 grant to build a Little Free Library for our community, they were extremely excited. I wanted students to be a part of the project from the start, so we started with a school-wide design project, where students had the opportunity to research Little Free Libraries and submit a design that they would like to see. I then took all of their ideas, and incorporated aspects of them into the final design.
Our Little Free Library was built by an enthusiastic volunteer – otherwise known as my wonderful, long-suffering teacher husband – and installed outside our school in May. The impact on students and the wider community was instant and extremely positive: We contacted all parents to let them know that the library was open for them to use, and teachers have been bringing their students to the library to explain the system of "take a book, leave a book." Since then, students have been coming to me to proudly announce that they have exchanged some books in the little free library.
One of the goals of École St Malo School is to encourage a love of reading and books in our school, and in the wider community. The addition of our Little Free Library is a great step towards this goal!
Summer Library Pilot Project – St. James Assiniboia SD
PROJECT LEADER: ROLANDE GALKA
As Regie Routman writes in Reading Essentials, “Research tell us that children who do not read regularly throughout the summer months lose approximately three months of reading growth, while those who do read during the summer continue to make gains. In order to stem this cumulative loss of years over a school career, we must make getting books into children’s hands through the summer a whole-school priority" (p. 80).
With this in mind, a small group of invested educators from St. James-Assiniboia School Division set out to make this a reality for 12 lucky students who have inconsistent or unlikely access to books over the summer months. Six target schools selected two students to enjoy a book shopping excursion to Chapters Polo Park. Each child was invited to come and spend $40-$45 on personally engaging, self-selected books.
From the moment they entered through the doors, they were captivated. For some, it was the first time they had ever stepped foot into a bookstore. Many could hardly wait to start roaming the aisles, and were amazed at the choices that were available to them. Some students searched for books by their favourite authors; others looked for titles from popular series they had heard of or by preferred subject areas. All were challenged to limit themselves to the available budget and needed some adult support to help them make their final decisions. Once their final choices were made, the students enjoyed a few quiet moments in a sunny corner of the store to savour their new finds.
At the end of the shopping experience, the students openly shared their enthusiasm:
The grant money provided through the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg enabled these twelve students to select books that they will read over the summer months. Perhaps more important than this, however, is the possibility that these students will remember the joy of the day and choose to return to a book store in the future in order to experience this same feeling another time.
The Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg and the Manitoba Reading Association proudly awarded deserving literacy leaders from around Manitoba with awards and scholarships at their annual Awards Celebration Evening.
Held May 30, 2019, at the beautiful Niakwa Golf Club, the celebration honoured Leslie Dent-Scarcello, who was awarded the Certificate of Merit. Colette Dufault was awarded an RCGW Honourary Membership. Colleen Chau and Sarah Elhatton received RCGW's Anniversary Scholarships. Carol Hryniuk-Adamov, RCGW Past President and ILA Past Provincial Co-ordinator (among many other titles), was awarded the Connie L. Dziedzic Memorial Life Membership.
Congratulations to all the award winners!
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.
Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 4:30 PM – St. Gerard School. All members are invited. Contact Leslie Dickson if you will be attending.
We welcome book reviews, articles about teaching strategies, and other submissions. Please contact the Editor.