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.
WRITTEN BY MARISA HOCHMAN
As another holiday season draws close, it is time to think of books to gift both to ourselves and to the people we love. We can take the opportunity to explore titles that will enhance our classroom lessons, or our time with our own children and grandchildren. Perhaps our purchases are meant to nourish the inner child in all of us. There is never really a bad excuse for buying a good book!
This winter’s RCGW Book Review features both brand new titles, some classics revisited and some excellent recently published works that we may have missed when they first came out. The common thread is excellence and inspiration. Let’s make this a season where we stock up on books that will educate, inspire and encourage young readers to make the world a better place, or to imagine it so.
Read-Aloud Books for Newborn - Age 5
A Parade of Elephants
Written and Illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Published by Greenwillow Books, September 2018
This book is a winner! The soft whimsical illustrations featuring pastel coloured elephants in green, pink, blue and yellow make it a perfect gift for a newborn or a new parent to be. In this newest instalment by beloved writer and Caldecott winner Kevin Henkes, five darling elephants parade around from day to night, moving up and down, in and out, over and under. The simple rhythmic language, large printed words and soft four toned colour-palette are easy on little eyes and will encourage young readers to follow along. This book encourages counting, colour recognition and basic language skills making it an excellent read aloud book for parents to share with their babies and toddlers. The gentle sleepy-time ending makes it an ideal book to read before a nap or bedtime while its elegant simplicity will make it a favourite that you will reach for again and again!
Primary Readers (Grades K-2, Ages 5-8)
Conceived by Jon Arno Lawson, Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Published by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2015
This beautiful wordless picture book is a powerful meditation on being present, noticing things, and living in the moment. The book begins as a little girl in a red jacket walks through the streets of a city holding her father’s hand. Most of the world around her is depicted in black and white, while the items we see in colour are mostly the small sidewalk flowers that she continues to collect and give away as gifts on their journey home. The flowers and their recipients are the things the girl notices and pays attention to, thus both appear in colour. Her father, though walking with her, appears frequently distracted, as he is almost constantly on his cellphone. As the two cross through a park and enter into their own neighbourhood, the cellphone disappears and more and more of the world appears in bright vivid colour, including their home, the girl’s mother, her siblings, her backyard and its’ various creatures.
Conceived of by award winning poet Jon Arno Lawson, Sidewalk Flowers offers a powerful lesson - that who and what we see is determined in large part by what we pay attention to. The soft pen and ink illustrations with watercolour wash beautifully depict how small children have their own unique view of the world and are capable of finding beauty and meaning in small simple things and in unexpected places – things and places that adults often choose to ignore (such as weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk), and are capable of a kindness and generosity much larger than their years.
This heartwarming book is truly a recommended read for all ages and would be a great introduction to young writers in exploring a narrator’s point of view. In the classroom, students could be encouraged to explore point of view in their own wordless picture books, illustrating the things that a selected character (such as a pet, or a baby) might pay attention to differently from other characters in their own story.
Written and Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Published by Neil Porter Books, Fall 2018
Yuyi Morales is a Caldecott Honor artist, and five-time winner of the Pura Belpre Award. Her latest book Dreamers was nominated by the New York Public Library as one of the best illustrated books for children in 2018. It explores her own personal immigrant experience, coming to the United States from Mexico in 1994 with her infant son, and how she found a home and refuge in the public libraries of her new city.
Children and adults alike will delight in Yuyi’s magical stylized illustrations and be enchanted by how the simply worded text evokes complex emotions and situations – the feeling of being a stranger in an unfamiliar land, the feeling of exhilaration and joy at finding a place of belonging, the thrill of learning and becoming, the feelings of hope as one dreams and builds for the future combined with the overwhelming love a parent feels for their young child.
Given current world events, this book could not be more timely. Dreamers is a gentle reminder of the power of words and of stories, and the great powers of love and hope to build a better tomorrow. Yuyi’s perspective is that all immigrants are “Dreamers” who “enter a new country carried by hopes and dreams, and carrying our own special gifts, to build a better future.”
Written and Illustrated by Marc Martin
Published by Chronicle Books, March 2017
Mixed media illustrations in rich deep blues and greens deftly showcase the powerful imagination of a child. From a seat at her own desk looking out her bedroom window a young girl is able to chart a journey to unexplored territories as she follows the meandering path of the river outside, past her own line of sight. Where the river below stretches into the distance, the young girl fills in the rest with her imagination. For any adult or child who has ever paused to wonder...”where does that road lead…where does that river end?” this book evokes a sense of adventure and mystery. Sometimes it’s even more fun to imagine than to know for sure, and we all have the power to make up our own incredible worlds if we so choose.
A River is a celebration of the imagination, an invitation to wonder and dream. Parents and teachers might use this lovely story as a guidebook and an invitation for children to create their own imaginative texts. Rivers, roads or moonbeams can be used as story starters leading budding authors to unexplored lands of their own. The simplicity and elegance of this lovely story make it a perfect mentor text for such an endeavour.
Written by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by Charles Vess
Published by Harper Collins, 2010
This charming book reads as an instruction manual for travellers entering the world of story. Peopled with magical characters from the lands of fairytales and myths, readers will find it both mysterious and familiar, providing a sense of comfort and adventure while it dispenses essential wisdom for navigating both the world of stories as well as everyday life.
Reading like a Desiderata for fairytale aficionados, Instructions begins with a gentle command: “Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before, Say “please” before you open the latch, go through, walk down the path...” And so the reader enters a magical realm following the main character - a cat who appears as Puss In Boots – through the journey.
This book would be a lovely addition to any collection. In the classroom it could be used as fodder for young writers to explore story structure, classic characters and archetypes, and the use of the present tense in narration.
Young Readers (Independent Reading for Grades 3-4, Ages 8-10)
I Dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
Written by Debbie Levy and Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016
This informative non-fiction biography of the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg focuses on the importance of working hard in life through positive channels to effect change in this world. It highlights vocabulary words such as: disagree, dissent, object, protest and persist, and showcases how all of these actions are not in fact negative but positive and powerful when performed in the correct way. Young readers, girls in particular, will find Ruth’s life and career inspirational. Another interesting aspect of this book is that while it celebrates the accomplishments of feminist ideals, the text of this book highlights Ruth’s quest for gender equality in the spheres of work and home life, and for equal rights for all peoples. It also encourages positive discourse and friendship with the people one disagrees with, showcasing a long-term friendship between Bader Ginsburg and Justice Antonin Scalia, the Justice she most often disagrees with. Given that an upcoming PG rated movie, based on the life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (On The Basis of Sex), is set for release in theatres this December, this is also a timely read. Plus readers will learn in advance of the movie, what’s up with Justice Ginsburg’s various collars. To find out you will have to read the book!
Middle-Grade Fiction (Chapter Books for Ages 10-14)
Don’t Tell The Enemy
Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Published by Scholastic Canada Ltd., 2018
Canadian writer Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has crafted a moving portrait of the devastation of World War II as told through the eyes of her young narrator Krystia whose town in the Ukraine is captured first by the Russians and then by the Germans. Though the situation is terrifying young Krystia bears witness and acts bravely throughout. The material in this book may be difficult for some readers. It realistically portrays a variety of wartime atrocities such as the mass slaughter of human beings, starvation, invasion of homes and appropriation of property, in addition to the purposeful targeting of Jews by the Nazis for mass extermination. The book deftly highlights the very real and ever-present dangers to their lives and security that were faced by ordinary people during the war years. Small infractions such as keeping a chicken for your family instead of turning it over to the Nazis as they decreed could result in a family being killed or deported to a labour camp – places so harsh that death was often a possibility. The title Don’t Tell The Enemy plays into the fact that people in town were watching Krystia’s every move. Anything she did or said could be reported to the Nazis with grave results for herself and her family. The fear experienced by Krystia’s family was immense, making their bravery and acts of kindness all the more courageous.
Readers will want to know that this book is based on the true-life story of a Ukrainian girl named Kateryna Sikorska, whose family name is listed (among those of 2500 Ukrainians) at Yad Vashem in Israel with the honorary title of Righteous Among the Nations. This title of honour is reserved for those who risked their lives and the lives of their families during World War II to rescue Jews and save them from the Holocaust.
Written and Illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Published by Greenwillow Books, 2011
Alice Rice and her family are headed back to their favourite vacation spot on Sanibel Island, Florida, where all of the cottages are named after seashells, and Alice celebrates her birthday every year. This year Alice is turning ten. Her hopes are high for this special birthday holiday, as she expects to at last find the elusive junonia shell she has been seeking. Junonia shells are a rare and prized find on Sanibel Island, and Alice has been wanting one for a very long time. Not all turns out as Alice is expecting, however. When her beloved Aunt Kate brings a new boyfriend and his daughter along Alice must learn to deal with disappointment and change, and must begin to grow up a bit herself, as she is no longer the youngest person in the family gathering. Henkes is always great at depicting the emotional lives of the children in his books and Junonia is no exception. Themes of longing, learning to share the attention of beloved adults, and the relationship between rarity and desirability are explored in a simple and gentle manner.
Kevin Henkes brilliantly brings to life the everyday magic of a seaside family vacation – the simple joys of searching for shells on the beach, of family gatherings and shared moments between parents and their child who is on the cusp of her transition between childhood and adolescence. Junonia is of course a perfect read for anyone turning ten, but it would also be a great addition to the family library of those planning a trip to Florida or Sanibel Island in particular. It would also make a lovely gift for any cottage-loving family. Local readers who love the beaches of Lake Winnipeg will find much in common with this lovely seaside story.
The book is beautifully illustrated at the beginning of each chapter with a small elegant pen and ink drawing by Henkes. Lovely endpapers make the hardcover a treat, and an illustrated page depicting the seashells found throughout the book is a perfect addition for children (and adults) who enjoy collecting shells themselves.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Written by Lewis Carrol
With Original Illustrations by Sir John Tenniel in Full Color
Published by MacMillan Children’s Books, 2018
This newest addition to the roster of previously published editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a large lavishly produced volume containing the classic original illustrations of John Tenniel in full colour. As an added bonus it possesses blue gilt-edged pages. The large print and gorgeous colourful illustrations give new life to an old classic (while remaining true to the original in every way) and make for a perfect shared read aloud experience between adult and child. Buy the softcover edition – it’s a bit lighter and easier to hold.
A few notable and desirable additions at the end include several letters written by Lewis Carrol to his readers at Christmastime in 1871, and at Easter in 1876, as well as a section titled “The Story of Alice”, detailing the history of the book to date. Disney is releasing a new live action movie version of the classic in 2019, so now is a wonderful time to read this book with a child you love.
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
By Megan Shepherd
Published by Random House Children’s Books, Paperback released March 6, 2018
Simply exquisite! The story in this slim volume packs an emotional wallop that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned. Emotionally rich and vibrant, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is a mysterious and magical book exploring themes of war, illness, death and loss through the lens of a child-narrator’s experience at the Briar Hill Hospital, situated in a repurposed English mansion during World War II.
Reminiscent of classics such as the Secret Garden and Chronicles of Narnia, middle grade readers will delight as young Emmaline spies secret winged horses hiding in the mirrors lining the once grand hallways and rooms of Briar Hill. When Emmaline discovers an injured white horse hiding in the walled garden, and a secret note from the Horse Lord, she knows that she must do everything in her power to save her new friend from a dark and sinister force. Locked in a deadly race against time, will Emmaline be able to accomplish her task? Important and surprising elements of the storyline are revealed gradually, and conversations overheard between adult characters in the book reveal crucial details that lead the reader to believe that Emmaline is not a reliable narrator. The ending, though satisfying, leaves something to the imagination as well, as each reader is left to interpret for themselves what really happened.
This beautiful book would make an excellent novel study for middle grade students, or school book club selection. Allowing lots of room for discussion and individual interpretation of events young readers will benefit from seeing that other readers may have different opinions and experiences of the text than themselves. This is also a book that would make an excellent study of the re-reading experience. Much like Lois Lowry’s book The Giver, a second reading of The Secret Horses of Briar Hill will be a completely different experience from a first reading. This also makes it an excellent selection for post-secondary studies of Children’s Literature.
About the Author – Marisa Hochman is a teacher, author, and mother of three. Her debut children’s picture book A Walk in Pirate’s Cove received an honourable mention on the Ontario Library Association’s Best Bets List and was shortlisted for the McNally Robinson Book Award. She currently lives in Winnipeg with her husband and children and a mischievous white terrier who likes to steal their socks
WRITTEN BY ERIN THOMAS
On Friday, October 19th, I met one of my heroes: Mr. Schu. John Schu is a teacher-librarian extraordinaire and the Ambassador for School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs. I have been following Mr. Schu on Twitter since I first joined in 2012. Through him, I have discovered many other amazing advocates for books and reading. I was over the moon to hear him speak at MTS PD Day.
He started with asking us what story is. This May, he asked the question on Twitter, “How would you finish this sentence: Story is...? #storyis“. I recommend you check out the hashtag. Loads of wonderful interpretations of what story is!
Mr. Schu’s high energy style made the day fly past. He shared many book titles with us, but he shared more than just that. He shared his warmth, his compassion, his love of reading, and mostly, his love of sharing books. He told stories about students he knew and knew of—the little girl who lived in his former house and was still receiving boxes of books meant for him that she shared with others at her school, the boy who, all on his own, staged a protest outside his school to save school libraries when he heard that elementary libraries would be losing their teacher-librarians, the student who hugged his book so tightly, or the ones who looked so longingly at the books he brought to give away that Mr. Schu knew they needed the book. He had us singing to The Dot Day Song—complete with motions!—and reading picture books aloud with him.
One of the best things about the day were the books. He gave away many, many books to the people in the audience. I was lucky enough to receive one myself, a beautiful picture book named LOVE written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. I shared it with my class, and the picture they most talked about was the same one Mr. Schu said he was so happy was included—a big double page picture of a child under a piano. Read the book—you’ll find it.
He made us laugh when we read aloud YOU DO NOT WANT A UNICORN (by Ame Dyckman) and he made us cry when he talked about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, taken from us far too soon. The day was brilliant.
And as I hugged my copy of Love tightly to my chest, knowing that not only would I have chosen that book, but that book had chosen me, I thought again about the start of the day when Mr. Schu asked us to finish the sentence “Story is…”
And after some thought, I realized that story is the way we connect with one another.
About the Author: Erin Thomas is a writer, an award-winning poet, a member-at-large of RCGW, and a teacher-librarian. She has loved books since she was a little girl. She loves Kate DiCamillo and reads The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to her students every year. When not reading or sharing books, Erin engages in her other passion, Manchester United Football Club.
WRITTEN BY LESLIE DICKSON
Welcome everyone to the 2018-2019 school year! I hope everyone has had a restful summer and a fabulous start to the new year. This is sure to be an exciting year for literacy education in Manitoba.
Bringing home ideas from the International Literacy Association annual conference has been a long-standing tradition within the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg. This year, the conference was held from July 20-23 in Austin, Texas and the theme was “Be a Changemaker.” After reflecting on my experience at the conference, these were the main ideas I brought home:
We have a busy professional development year ahead of us. On Monday, September 24, the Reading Council is happy to present Monica Wiebe: Road to Reading Mysteries: Become a Running Record Ace and Comprehension Detective. In addition, please help us connect with literacy leaders by sharing our updates for this year’s RCGW MTS PD Day on social media. We look forward to hosting literacy expert John Schu for his day-long PD. Register via MTS MemberLink. Finally, the Reading Council will be hosting Dr. Jan Richardson on February 5, 2019 at Holy Eucharist Hall. It’s going to be a great year!
We are always looking to welcome new members, so please consider coming to a meeting to check us out. Our next meeting will take place on Thursday, October 11, 2018, 4:30 PM at St. Maurice School. Please contact me for further information at email@example.com. I look forward to seeing you.
“To become a lifelong reader, one has to do a lot of varied and interesting reading.”
About the Author: Leslie Dickson is the president of the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg. An award-winning teacher, Leslie is the Social Studies Department Head, ELA Teacher, and Lead Literacy Teacher at Elmwood High School in Winnipeg. She has been recognized with the RCGW Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Literacy and, most recently, Manitoba Education and Training's Teaching Excellence Award.
WRITTEN BY BERNADETTE DWYER
INTERNATIONAL LITERACY ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
Note from the Editor: We asked the International Literacy Association president Bernadette Dwyer, who hails from Ireland to share with us how she plans to address the international aspect of the International Literacy Association. She shared with us ILA's new Children's Rights to Read campaign. Thank you, Bernadette, for your contribution to our blog!
Each year, International Literacy Day (ILD) on September 8 serves as a reminder to mark our achievements and reflect on the challenges that lie ahead in our pursuit of literacy for all.
Since the first ILD in 1966, we’ve seen substantial progress. Literacy rates, across the globe, continue to rise from one generation to the next. In 2016, 91% of 15–24-year-olds were reported to have basic literacy skills, compared with 78% 50 years prior. Forty-three countries have made major strides toward gender parity.
But international surveys tell us that’s not enough. There remain today 750 million adults, two thirds of them female, who can’t read this sentence. A whopping 264 million children and youths are not enrolled in school. Two thirds of students who can’t read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will struggle in their lives to attain employment.
These numbers are a staggering reminder that the fight against low levels of literacy is ongoing, and we need a multipronged, collaborative approach to combat this crisis.
Which is why, this ILD, we’re celebrating another milestone: the launch of the International Literacy Association (ILA) Children’s Rights to Read initiative—the first part of a yearlong campaign focused on ensuring that all young people, regardless of geographic location, socioeconomic status, and circumstance, are granted not only the rights to read but also the right to literacy.
In 2018, the ILA Board of Directors convened a task force charged with reviewing existing literature pertaining to a child’s rights to read with the goal of developing a worldwide campaign to ensure that every child receives these fundamental rights. Composed of literacy educators, researchers, and advocates, the task force of ILA members from Australia, Japan, Russia, Ireland and USA reflected the diverse voices we hope to reach. Together, we came up with a list of 10 rights, of equal importance, that ILA believes are essential for individuals to reach full personal, social, and educational potential.
These rights—such as the right to read for pleasure, the right to extended time set aside for reading, the right to read texts that mirror cultures, languages and experiences, the right to share and collaborate both locally and globally—ensure learning environments that unleash the transformative power of reading.
To be a literacy educator is to be an advocate. Literacy permeates all areas of life, fundamentally shaping how we learn, work, and socialize. The skills we impart to students are essential to informed decision making, personal empowerment, and community engagement. They enable individuals, especially those from underserved communities, to overcome barriers to living fulfilling and successful lives.
However, the benefits of literacy ensue only when a strong framework is in place. Through this campaign, we seek to partner with other educators, policymakers, and literacy advocates devoted to advancing these 10 rights. We won’t stop until they’re embedded in the ethos of our curriculum, pedagogy, and policy.
The world has changed since 1966, but our dedication to our mission of literacy for all is unwavering. In the coming months, we’ll be developing and distributing resources to advance adoption of the Rights in schools and communities across the globe. Delivering on this commitment will require support from educators like you. By uniting our efforts, we can help position and prioritize literacy as a human rights issue.
I encourage you to download the Children’s Rights to Read, learn more about the campaign, and sign on in support at literacyworldwide.org/rightstoread.
With my deepest gratitude for the work that you do--
President, ILA Board of Directors
Bernadette Dwyer lectures in literacy studies at the Institute of Education, Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland and is the current president of the International Literacy Association. She has worked in education for over 38 years as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, teacher educator, researcher, and author.
Tuesday, February 12 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.