January 28, 2013
Ottawa….Through its Imagineaction program, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) is pleased to partner once again with the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCU), the Public Lending Right Commission (PLRC) and Indigo Books & Music in the project called Listen, I read – 2nd edition.
Teachers are invited to send in their applications as of today and can do so online at http://www.imagine-action.ca. Registration is free and open to all Canadian teachers. There are a limited number of opportunities, so please register early.
Listen, I read aims to:
promote contemporary Canadian literature and reading;
acquaint students with literacy issues; and
use the arts to help youth find their voices as citizens.
“The initiative was a tremendous success last year involving over 1,000 students from Grades 1 to 12 in 38 schools across Canada reading books and connecting with 18 different authors who are recipients of the highly esteemed Governor General’s Literary Awards,” says CTF President Paul Taillefer. “We were delighted to read the teachers’ positive evaluations in which they claim the initiative provided students with authentic learning.”
More information in this short article and video.
Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the CTF, the CCU and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Listen, I read project was originally launched in 2011 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Public Lending Right Commission, the 75th anniversary of the Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGs), the UN International Year of Youth and the UN Literacy Decade.
The CTF Imagineaction program aims to engage young people in social action projects tied to their school and local communities. More information: http://www.imagine-action.ca
As a teacher and avid reader, one of the things I love most about a school holiday is having uninterrupted spans of time to read for pleasure. Over Christmas break this year, I read some great books, and one of my favorites was Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. One passage in particular stuck with me. Here, the mysterious man in the grey suit talks about storytellers and the craft of storytelling:
“There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that.” He takes another sip of his wine. “There are many kinds of magic, after all.” (p. 505).
I’m a teacher-librarian, so it’s no surprise that I was drawn to a passage about stories and storytelling. Re-reading this passage makes me think about the Alberta School Library Council’s Kaleidoscope Conference, held this past November in Calgary. I sat in on some fabulous author talks, and the power of story was very much at the forefront of discussions. Rosa Jordan spoke about how stories can empower children. Lois Donovan discussed the role of story in developing historical understanding. Jeff Buick demonstrated how transliteracy can offer exciting opportunities for readers to immerse themselves within a story, and Marty Chan’s gentle humour was a reminder that despite differences in culture, background or history, there is something of the universal in the stories we tell.
Such is the power of literature. I’ve always believed that one of the great things about a book is that it gives us a safe space to explore the themes and ideas that intrigue us, excite us, scare us, make us nervous or uncomfortable. Through stories we get to experience the wild circus of human experience. For kids, that’s especially important. Literature helps young people grapple with the Really Big Questions associated with developmental tasks of childhood and adolescence.
Stories – both real and imagined – also help us to twist the lens and see things from a new perspective. Exposure to different points of view is important. The Alberta social studies program of studies, for example, is all about recognizing alternative points of view. Seeing the world through the kaleidoscope of literature helps kids to develop empathy, and respect for those who see things from a different perspective. These are valuable life skills.
The man in the grey suit is right: storytelling is an important kind of magic. What does that mean for us as teacher-librarians? Our professional roles are complex, and we’re called upon to wear many different hats. But I think one hat is most important. This is the hat we wear to ensure that kids can connect with the literature and stories that will move them and drive them. That’s no simple task. Issues of equity, access and intellectual freedom – not to mention budget constraints – can challenge our ability to expose kids to the circus of human experience.
Whether we call our space a learning commons or a library, whether the delivery mechanism is paper or digital, as teacher-librarians we’re stewards of stories. Some of those stories are unfolding around us in real time. Some, like The Night Circus, are constructs of the imagination. All of those stories await a listener, and it’s our job to help the ear to find the tale – to ensure that our children, through the stories of our collective experience, find their blood and self and purpose. There’s magic in that, after all.
Nancy Prentice is the teacher-librarian at Forest Lawn High School in Calgary.
Join ASLC and Diana Rendina, Renovated Learning and Walking Together in exploring the excitement and potential of Makerspaces to impact student learning and learn how literature can help you create an Inclusive Learning Commons!
Location: Strathcona High School 10450 72 Avenue NW Edmonton, AB T6E0Z6