Thursday, July 1, 2021

Summer Reading Club in a Box, 2021

 


Quality Learning NB is again offering “Summer Reading Club in a Box” in three Saint john neighbourhoods.  Approximately 20 children in each neighbourhood will be signed up to the provincial library's Summer Reading Club, receive two new books, and then two more on a second visit later in the summer.

Families can sign-up for SRC-in-a-box at


  • Courtenay Bay - Monday, July 5th (5-7, beside Brunswick Drive Apartment)
 
  • Anglin Drive - Tuesday, July 6th (4-6, Pigeon Terrace)
 
  • Roxbury Drive - Wednesday, July 7th (5-7, common area behind the buildings)
 

Families can also sign up for the NB Public Library's Summer Reading Club online at https://www1.gnb.ca/0003/src=cle/2020/en/index-e.asp  

This project is made possible by financial support from Saint John Energy, the the Department of Social Development - Housing, and the Saint John Free Public Library.

 



 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Literacy, Learning and Popular Family Culture

Still from Star Wars Uncut: Director's Cut (2012)

We were talking popular culture, family literacies and about our Easter viewing - the films and specials we'd seen as children and still watched with our families today.  The Ten Commandments (1956), of course.  Sometimes Ben-Hur (1959).  And to fill out the 'Heston Holiday' trilogy, The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965).

Of course, these films are a half century old at this point and maybe no longer qualify as 'pop culture.'  Cheryl mentioned that Showcase (a Canadian English-language specialty channel that streams on BellTV, Shaw Direct and most cable networks) was running a 9-film Star Wars marathon.

WD: I've only ever seen the first three - or the middle three... however you want to say it.  The only Star Wars worth watching is the crowd-sourced Star Wars on YouTube.

CB: The one all the fans made pieces of then somebody put together? That they made out of short clips?

WD: Star Wars for the masses, from the masses!

CB: What a rich example of pop culture literacy making its way into family literacy...

WD: All those kids being made to help dad with his crazy Star Wars film...

CB: All that dramatic play and symbolic representation that's so important.

 

The 2012 Star Wars Uncut: Director's Cut can be found here on YouTube.  And, for the true fan, The Empire Strikes Back Uncut: Full Movie can be viewed here.

Obviously, such low-brow fare isn't for everyone.  The discerning reader may wish to instead spend their time reading William Shakespeare's Star Wars, William Shakespeare's Empire Striketh Back, and William Shakespeare's  The Jedi Doth Return (Ian Doescher, Quirk Books).

www.quirkbooks.com

 

 Cheryl Brown (@CherylAnneBrown) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, QLNB's Community Literacy Coordinator, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.

Wendell Dryden (@wendelldryden) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, a Community and Adult Literacy worker, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.

 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Literacy, Learning and the Visual Arts


My 2021 Group of Seven wall calendar (Wyman Publishing) features J.E.H. MacDonald's 1912 "Early Evening, Winter" on its February page.  I was thinking about it, about MacDonald's work, and about how much I've always enjoyed sharing famous Canadian paintings with adult learners.  I re-read Katharine Child's "Giving Students Roots and Wings" (Literacies, 2, fall 2003, 12-17), and then called up my QLNB literacy colleague Cheryl Brown to talk about educative uses of one of her favourite painters, Maud Lewis.  Here's a snippet of that conversation.


CB: Illustrators are artists - sometimes their work makes it into museums.  There are artists who are already in museums, and sometimes their work makes its way into books for children.  Like Maude Lewis 123 [Carol McDougall and Shanda LaRamee-Jones] and Katie and the Starry Night [James Mayhew] and Tomie dePaola's books.  There are all kinds of them.  There are books that talk about Frida Kahlo.  Even Mi’kmaw Animals - Alan Syliboy is an artist.  I think about the Maud Lewis book in particular because it's for babies.

I find this exciting because sometimes art isn't accessible.  It's in a museum somewhere.  Maybe you can look at it in an art book, but you're not going to let your two-year old play with that art book.  Having this art in a children's book makes it accessible.  To have something like Maud Lewis 123 in a format that makes it accessible to toddlers is what I find exciting.  They'll get to know Maud Lewis' cows and cats.

In the same way we make words and letters visible in children's early learning worlds, we need these pieces of art available to them.  The art is pleasing, and also part of our cultures. I've got a Rene Collins in my home that future little ones will see.  They'll know who Emily Carr is, and so on.


WD:  Yes, that makes sense.  At times, I have had European artwork by Monet or Van Gough - I mean pictures of work by Monet or Van Gough - available in my adult learning classrooms; sometimes in books and sometimes on the wall.  I usually have a Tom Thompson or an Emily Carr reproduction up.  I will always have a Group of Seven calendar in my class.  I haven't had reproductions of Maud Lewis' painting which seems like an oversight that I'll want to correct.  But whether I'm helping adults prepare for the Canadian GED or welcoming newcomers into sharing in Canadian history, it feels like my job, as an adult educator, is to constantly offer visual representations of this part of Canadian culture.

And if you're going to take a test like the GED or the citizenship test, the Emily Carr and Group of Seven seems like something that’s going to come up; something you ought to, at least, have heard about.

When you talked about facilitating your own adult literacy classroom, you said that you used art to offer some adults....  That the chance to explore a different medium or a different modality gave some learners the opening they needed to work on their skills.


CB: Yes, well, it appeals because it’s more sensory and also multi-modal.  That's the thing about it - that it's multi-modal.  It's no accident that, quote, "fore-grounding the language, tools and practices of art" is in the "Communication and Literacies" goals of the New Brunswick Curriculum Framework for Early Learning and Childcare.

Some educators don't have an art background.  They don't have a lot of information around this, which is why some of the professional learning workshops I’ve seen involve the facilitators bringing art materials and engaging with the video and using the materials with educators so that the educators then know, "Well, this is how I could use charcoal with pre-schoolers." Or, “These are the words associated with clay and its tools.”

One of the biggest things for pre-schoolers is the words.  So, with clay there are words: "modeling and molding, balls, coils, bridges, columns" or "squash, poke, carve" and so on.  This vocabulary that goes with the actions is one reason why this is part of "Communication and Literacies."  Being artistic by using the materials or looking at art is a way we create meaning and obtain meaning.


WD: Right, although I'd think, in this context, it’s also about fine motor skill development?


CB:  Yes, that too.  But that's under "Play and Playfulness." [Laughs.]  You take your "Communication and Literacies" glasses off and put your "Play and Playfulness" glasses on.  Or you take your "Play and Playfulness" glasses off and put your "Well-Being" glasses on and recognize that painting or using play dough is cathartic and expressing yourself improves your well-being.


WD: Yeah, okay.  And my sense is that a holistic adult learning class would have all those glasses as well.  Well, I guess I just believe that - that humans are humans, and this way of involving art in education is a 'whole-human' approach to learning.


Cheryl Brown (@CherylAnneBrown) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, QLNB's Community Literacy Coordinator, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.

Wendell Dryden (@wendelldryden) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, a Community and Adult Literacy worker, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Family Literacy Day for all Canadian families

Family Literacy Day celebrates what happens in
Canadian families of all shapes and sizes.

For as long as I can remember, and even before I'd heard the phrase ‘family literacy,’ I've been involved in family literacy activities.  I grew up in a literate household where we read and played and engaged in community events and nature field trips.  This was a lifestyle I carried on with my own children, and one that did not end when they became independent adults.  Shown above is one of my more recent family literacy photos; taken as my parents and I, my spouse, adult son, adult daughter and her partner were gathered around the table, talking and playing dominos after a 2021 New Year’s Day supper.  The imagery is heavy on numeracy since we're playing dominos, but there are a lot of other literacies happening here; as there are when we read books and texts aloud to each other, share maps, make plans, and have fun being together doing what our family does in everyday life.

In many ways, this is a fairly stereotypical family literacy photo: parents, grandparents, children engaged in a fun activity that involves talking, reading, writing and numeracy.  What makes it a little less 'typical,' perhaps, is that no one around this table was younger than twenty.  Family literacy still happens in my family even though there are no preschoolers.

This needn't be noteworthy.  According to the originating non-profit ABC Life Literacy Canada, our national Family Literacy Day (January 27th) "was started in 1999 to raise awareness about the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family" with no particular age limits.[1]  Yet, representations of Family Literacy Day have tended to feature families with young, or younger school-age, children.  This framing is apparent even in how ABC Life Literacy Canada describes ‘family literacy’ itself, calling particular attention to adult family members supporting early childhood literacy development:

Family literacy focusses on parents, grandparents and other family members to improve the reading and writing skills of the whole family.

By reading to children and engaging in fun literacy activities regularly, adults actively keep their own skills sharp and also help children improve their skills.

Family literacy activities strengthen the relationship between family members which, in turn, encourages lifelong learning.

Without adult support and a strong foundation at home, a child is less likely to be successful and engaged in school.[2]

Without diminishing this desire to support fun and healthy family-centered early childhood learning, we might ask how well these conceptions of ‘family literacy’ and ‘family’ suit the country we live in.


According to StatsCan data from the past decade, about one in seven Canadian children (13% of those age 17 or under) are preschool age.[3]  Roughly one in seven (17.5%) of adult Canadians are aged 65 or older.[4]  Too, roughly one in seven (14%) of adult Canadians (age 18+), live alone.[5]  In other words, Canadian households are as likely to be comprised of older and/or single adults as they are to house children age five or younger.

ABC Life Literacy Canada reminds us, rightly, that family literacy “focusses on… the reading and writing skills of the whole family.”[6]  This raises the question: what does family literacy look like in the teenage years?  What if the children are grown?  What if the “whole family” is a childless couple or even a single adult Canadian living alone?


On its 22nd anniversary, and in a time when we all want to honour diversity and strive for greater inclusion, let’s take this opportunity to gently remind ourselves that Family Literacy Day can be a celebration of what happens in Canadian families of all shapes and sizes. 


Cheryl Brown (@CherylAnneBrown) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, QLNB's Community Literacy Coordinator, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Reading: Christmas Eve


OKAY!  In and around other things - reading for work, reading with kids, reading about knitting, reading my chainsaw manual - I finally finished reading the Witcher series, putting a nice bow on my 2020 reading.  At least, I thought that's what I did.  I read the first Witcher book (which lines up with Season One on Netflix), and then the boxed set of three (Blood of Elves, The Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire).  And I have to say, I was totally disappointed with how it finished!  You know, at the end of a book? When there’s another book to read?  And there's a teaser chapter (which there totally was for the second and third Witcher books I read)?  Well, the fourth book handed me a teaser chapter for a totally different series.  And I'm like, hey!  This is how it ends?  What happened to Ciri?  Did Geralt just give up looking for her?  What about this war they’re in the middle of?  What the....

After stomping around about this for a few days, I spotted my problem - there are seven Witcher titles, not four.  I don't know why the publisher was teasing me with some new series; but in any case, I now know that I've yet to read the Tower of Swallows, Lady of the Lake, and Season of Storms.  Some light reading for 2021, I guess.  Actually, I've been down this road before with Ender’s Game which I thought was a series of six books but turned into twelve and became the longest book series I'd read since my Nancy Drew days.

What didn't disappoint me was my family's Christmas Eve reading tradition, a thing my family has been doing for more than 20 years.  Ever since my kids were little, we've put out cookies and milk, hung up our stockings, and then sat to listen to a family member reading Clement C. Moore’s T'was the Night Before Christmas.  This year, one of my sons had to join us by zoom call - bittersweet - but we were still together and whole, and I'm grateful for that.

And with that, I'm wrapping up my year of writing about reading.  Thanks for reading along.


Cheryl Brown (@CherylAnneBrown) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, QLNB's Community Literacy Coordinator, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.  In these posts, she has been documenting and sharing snap-shots of some of her daily reading.  



Thursday, December 10, 2020

Reading: Maps


Recently, I got to participate in a 'Great Canadian Hike Challenge.'  I read the Fundy Footpath map to plan my route (choosing this particular section because I hadn't yet seen the famous flower pot).  While I was walking (and checking my map), I thought about the many other kinds of map reading I do.  I frequently use Google Maps with my phone for work travel - finding highway exit numbers, street addresses, gas stations - but my glove box is an equally rich resource.  I always consult some kind of map before going on any hiking trail for the first time.  The Rockwood Park Map I carried in my back pocket, initially so I wouldn’t get lost, became a useful tool for crossing off 'completed trails' and planning new hikes.


There are lots of other kinds of reading to do on trails such as signage indicating trail names, lengths and accessible hours, or signs detailing points of historical or pictorial interest, signs identifying common or unique flora & fauna, and signs telling us about things like elevation and other geological or oceanographic descriptors.  Still, paper maps are special things.  We 'own' our paper maps.  We carry them with us, make marks on them, hold them up against the landscape as we seek to place ourselves in a larger context of community and nature.

In my home office I have a drawer full of typical highway or tourist maps of places I've been.  (At a glance, I can see maps of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the Maritimes, Maine, the Southeastern U.S., the White Mountains & New Hampshire.)  I always grab a street map of anywhere I'm visiting, and I've saved more than a few: Washington DC (showing Smithsonian locations); Montreal, Vancouver, Portland, NY City.  I also keep an eye out for specialty maps like my small hand-drawn-styled map 'A Traveller’s Map of the St. John River Ferry System.' I have maps of zoos and other tourist attractions (King’s Landing, Minister’s Island), a wonderful map of Canada’s federal parks, and even an N.B. map of farmer’s markets!  I remember getting National Geographic in the mail (or looking through my grandfather’s collection of back issues) and always being excited to see what map was included (among my favourites:  Antarctica, 1957; Whales of the World, 1976; The Historic Mediterranean, 1982; Sky Survey - Charting the Heavens, 1983; The Alps, 1985; Great Lakes, 1987.  I don't subscribe to N.G. anymore, but my interest in maps hasn't flagged.

Meanwhile, there are many types of maps I don't have on hand: topographical; socio-thematic (e.g., population density or voting patterns), navigation charts.  And let’s not forget the fictional maps we find in the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, or the Eragon series.

Like any other type of functional reading, map reading is a skillset that strengthens and broadens with use, contributing to the growth of our overall literacy skills.  Beyond their practicality, however, maps are special things that invite us into places, and even periods, we might not otherwise go; making map reading at once an intensely personal and social activity.   

For another take, and with an eye to January 27th, check out A. Alexandra's 2015 'Explore a Map on Family Literacy Day.'


Cheryl Brown (@CherylAnneBrown) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, QLNB's Community Literacy Coordinator, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.  In these posts, she has been documenting and sharing snap-shots of some of her daily reading.  


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Reading: Newspapers

It's Saturday, and the first thing I did today was read the newspaper. Last Saturday morning I read the Saturday morning newspaper; like the Saturday before, and the Saturday before that. It’s a tradition in my home.

I don’t know when reading Saturday morning papers became a tradition more broadly. According to Britannica something like our modern newspaper began appearing in western Europe and eastern Asia in the first half of the 17th century. Perhaps the earliest recognizable London daily newspaper, The Daily Courant (which took its name from the Dutch corantos meaning "currents of news") was first published on March 11th of 1702 by Elizabeth Mallet. Moneyweek tells us that editions of The Daily Courant were pretty thin, consisting of "a single sheet with two columns, and adverts on the back" - bit like our Monday morning papers, really. The Daily Courant offered reprinted articles from the continent as well as limited (politically safe) local news written up by Mallet herself. Typically, The Daily Courant pushed sensationalist stories, showing a modern understanding what sold well and thereby attracted advertisers. Alas, the technical limitation of her 18th century printing press prevented her from putting out a fully modern, 20th century newspaper.  There were no fashion spreads, no pictures of cute animals, and, most important, no full-page funnies.

Wikipedia credits the Americans with the first modern, full-page funny papers, circa 1900; typically published Sunday morning (as opposed to our more conservative Saturday printings). When I was little, my grandmother would sometimes wrap presents in colourful funny pages – delightful and important wrapping paper you sit and read if you removed it carefully enough. Otherwise, Saturday mornings, I had to sit and wait while my father laughed his way through the funny pages. Then I learned to get up early if I wanted first dibs on the Saturday funnies – or, as my interests matured, the school sports section, the recipes, the crossword, and the front page.

Competition of another sort showed up when I had my own children. When my twins were born, I specifically asked for “Saturday morning paper time,” which didn’t seem to prevent my oldest from climbing into my armchair to see what was so interesting about Saturday’s news.

I read our Saint John newspaper daily. I feel my day is missing something if I don’t read the paper.  I also read local community papers when I can. When I lived in Grand Bay - Westfield, I always read the monthly River Valley News and its successor The District. In Saint John, I follow the quarterly Around the Block community newspaper. When I travel, I love finding small local newspapers like The Island Times (Grand Manan) or The Grand Lake Mirror (Chipman). Last summer, while in Calais, Maine, I picked up a copy of The Quoddy Tides, billed as the “Most Easterly Newspaper Published in the United States.” I was impressed by how many stories it had about New Brunswick’s Charlotte County, and I became a subscriber.  In the Oct 9th edition, I learned about a fire on Grand Manan, about St. Stephen’s municipal budget decisions, and how students at Campobello Consolidated are adapting to Covid-19 rules.  (By the way, the Deer Island Home and School Association is collecting items for this year’s online auction to raise funds for outdoor activities for students – it’s in the Quoddy Tides.) This 40-page paper, published twice monthly, offers birth and death notices, opinion pieces, photo spreads and job ads.

The Quoddy Tides also prints a generously sized crossword puzzle. I mention this because in my parents’ house, where daily newspaper reading still goes on, I’ve begun hearing complaints about how small the local paper’s crosswords have become. So when I am done reading my Quoddy Tides, I pass it along with the crosswords unsolved – another bit of newspaper I share with my dad. It’s a tradition in my home.


 Cheryl Brown (@CherylAnneBrown) is co-creator of the Storytent and Bookwagon programs, QLNB's Community Literacy Coordinator, and long-time advocate for and facilitator of a variety of family literacy initiatives.  In these posts, she has been documenting and sharing snap-shots of some of her daily reading.  

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Community Literacy Work in a time of Covid-19: Part 6, Libraries Here, Libraries There


The Smith Family Little Free Library is two-sided; adult titles in the front, books for kids and teens in the back. In Tracy, the library is tucked in between the postal outlet and a senior's activity centre. The Gornish (Rusagonis) set up their little free library in a community park located at a sign-posted crossroads; 0.5km to the Baptist church and 1.6km to the Rec Centre in one direction, 3.3km to the schoolhouse in another, and a third takes you across the Patrick Owens covered bridge (1909).



The twin little free libraries in St. Martins feature miniature murals by a local artist. The overlapping roof boards of the library on Mecklenburg St. wear the same slate grey as the rocks of nearby Tin-Can beach.  The library at Bates Landing, standing between river and field, wears a cedar-shingle roof. In Lorneville, the tin-roofed little free library is painted all white and absolutely glows in the morning sun. In Red Head, the library lights up at night (as does the solar-powered Smith library in Waterville).

 


What all these varied libraries have in common - just like the laundry-room libraries on Roxbury Drive, and the bookshelf in the Outflow men's shelter, the shelves in the Tenant Association buildings in Crescent Valley and on Anglin Drive, and the library snugged in the back of the Irving in Brown's Flat, and still others from St. Stephen to L'Etete, St. Andrews to Long Reach, across Charlotte, Sunbury, Kings, Queens and Saint John counties - is an invitation to borrow, to share, to read.  And now, they all have books by New Brunswick authors in common as well.

For almost 20 years, Quality Learning New Brunswick has been promoting literacy by bringing our books, blankets and reading tents to New Brunswick community events.  This year, in light of Covid-19 restrictions, we chose to deliver packages of New Brunswick authored books to free community libraries in or near those south-western NB communities our 2020 event tents would have served. While the gift-packs varied, most included seven small picture books for children and families published by the University of New Brunswick Early Childhood Centre, an NB authored board, picture, youth fiction and youth non-fiction book, and a fiction and non-fiction book for adults (e.g., David Adams Richard's Mercy Among the Children or Nicholas Guitard's Waterfalls of New Brunswick: A Guide). We've finished our deliveries - just in time to start celebrating National Library month - and begun writing the final report.

Major funding for this project comes from a New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture Literacy Promotion Grant.  Additional support has come from the New Brunswick Department of Social Development, a Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick - Peter Gzowski Invitational (PGI) grant, and various private and corporate donations.



For more information on books, borrowing and libraries in the current context, check out New Brunswick Public Libraries' COVID-19 and Your Library and, from earlier this year, a CBC webstory Is it safe to borrow library books? Your COVID-19 questions answered.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Community Literacy Work in a time of Covid-19: Part 5, "Accessible" Reading

Outflow (Ministry Inc.) hosts a men's shelter in the heart of Saint John. When the Covid-19 related closing began, lots of Saint Johners - especially our poorest residents - lost access to many daily supports, including the Saint John Free Public library. Sheltering in place was tough enough; sheltering in place with nothing to read was... well, bad.

Outflow spoke with us about creating an in-house library of sorts. Talking it through, they decided they wanted a shelf with good quality books, books written for adults, and books written at various levels of reading difficulty. Through a private donation, we were able to provide a 'starting kit' of mixed level reading materials, including some very popular titles by Nova Scotia newcomer William Kowalski.


Photo from bookseller Lakesidebooks.com

When we checked back in, a few weeks later, we heard that the Outflow library was still chugging along: helpful, popular, accessible.

For us, that last term is key, and means something more than just "in-house" or "libraries have re-opened." It also means books people can read, books they don't find too hard or too easy, too simple or too complex. "I like to read when I can read," someone told us long ago. That's been our rationale for proving good reads at multiple levels of reading difficulty ever since.

Easier-to-read books by Mr. Kowalski and many other top-notch authors can be found at Grass roots Press or Orca Books and, of course, your local public library.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Community Literacy Work in a time of Covid-19: Part 4, International Literacy Day (#backyardstorytent)

 Happy International Literacy Day.  :\

According to the UN 'International Literacy Day 2020 focuses on “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.'  The authors note that during the initial responses to Covid-19, many in-person literacy supports and services were suspended, and communities turned to distance learning methods; online or virtual in some contexts, 'through TV and radio, or in open air spaces' in others.

In the posts below, we've highlighted shifts QLNB made in response to Covid-19: chiefly, suspending our work of hosting community learning spaces, and bumping up our work of providing tools and information to support learning-in-place.  However, we also dabbled in virtual outreach with our #backyardstorytent videos - four short YouTube videos encouraging summer-long, family-sized 'storytents.'

Backyard Storytents - Imagine Yours


Backyard Storytents - Cats


Backyard Storytents - Staycation


Backyard Storytents - Any Time


'What is the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on youth' the UN asks, 'and adult literacy educators and teaching and learning? What are the lessons learnt?'  We don't claim any special insights or accomplishments.  With many of you, we are also using this International Literacy Day 'to reflect on and discuss how innovative and effective pedagogies and teaching methodologies can be used in youth and adult literacy programmes to face the pandemic and beyond.'  At this point, all we can bring to the table is our determination to not stop working in and for those urban and rural New Brunswick communities who reach out to us for support.  After all, as the UN also points out, the 'existing gap between policy discourse and reality... already existed in the pre-COVID-19 era.'  Covid-19 is a challenge, but it is neither the most widely felt, nor the steepest, barrier to increased community, family and adult literacies.

So, yeah.  Unironically. Happy International Literacy Day.  Let's go.  :)

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Community Literacy Work in a time of Covid-19: Part 3, (Rural) Little Free Libraries


In past years, the end of August would see us writing reports and sorting pictures, reflecting on a summer of storytenting at rural NB events - Canada Day spent in Grand Bay - Westfield, Campobello Island's Fogfest, Field Day in Browns Flat, Come Home Week at the Junction.  This year, event tents have been replaced by visits to little free libraries both in and out of the city.

We've already shared our kick-off visit to Redhead.  This weekend we dropped packages of books authored by New Brunswickers to little free libraries in Browns Flat (inside the Irving), Bates Landing (at the Roadside Market) and in Long Reach (at the Fullerton Corner Market).


We met up with Hon. Bill Oliver at Bates Landing (he was dropping off a couple of books at the library) and another NBer who said she regularly stops by on a weekly commute.

We met extraordinary white pumpkins of Fullerton Farms at our Long Reach stop (this one came home with Cheryl).  And we drove past acres of gorgeous Acadian forest and fields of fresh cut hay.  It's turning into a lovely autumn.

(Still, winter is coming - plan your reading now.)



Major funding for this project comes from a New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture Literacy Promotion Grant.  Additional support has come from the New Brunswick Department of Social Development, a Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick - Peter Gzowski Invitational (PGI) grant, and various private and corporate donations.

For more information on books, borrowing and libraries in the current context, check out New Brunswick Public Libraries' COVID-19 and Your Library and, from earlier this year, a CBC webstory Is it safe to borrow library books? Your COVID-19 questions answered.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Community Literacy Work in a time of Covid-19: Part 2, SRC in a Box

 


Back when we all crowded the supermarkets and bus stops with nary a care in the world, QLNB had plans to run a six-week storytent program on Anglin Drive.  We'd outreach the provincial Summer Reading Club (SRC), snack on oranges and bananas, maybe bring along a jump rope or some sidewalk chalk, and make sure everybody knew about the neighbourhood library just down the street (open Tuesday evenings by QLNB for general borrowing and Thursday evenings by workers from the Public Library for stories, arts and crafts).

Then things changed.  There wasn't going to be a Thursday night program, nor an open Tuesday night, nor any oranges and bananas to share beneath the storytent.

Plan B: “Summer Reading Club in a Box.”  If children couldn't attend the storytent, maybe we could take books to them.  If lending or returning books was deemed inappropriate (as it was during the early months of Covid-19), maybe we could give the children brand new books, packaged in plastic and "rested" for 72 hours.  Given the cost of high quality new books - and we saw no benefit in handing out less expensive but unpopular books - we calculated we could stay within budget and still get books and SRC materials to approximately 20 children in the neighbourhood.  Each child would receive two new books on our first visit, and two more when we returned three weeks later.  On our first visit, we would ask families for specific titles and authors so that we could personalize the second pair of books each child received (requests ranged from graphic novels to Robert Munsch storybooks to Diary of a Wimpy Kid in English and French).  We reworked the budget, swallowing most material costs and all staffing costs.  We talked with our partners and funders to make sure they were on board.  And we shopped as shrewdly as we knew how.

Then, one evening in early July, we walked the neighbourhood.  Always mindful of the need to social distance, we made a specific approach to those children and families who had participated in the previous summer's SRC, while also offering to support any new families who spoke to on our first delivery night.  In keeping with our established practice of signing interested children up to SRC in the storytent (this is the ‘outreach’ component of outreaching SRC) we looked after the 2020 online signup and ensured participants received their SRC certificate by summer’s end..

In all, twenty-one children registered for SRC 2020, each child receiving four new books.  In addition, one newcomer family with multiple children, who did not register for SRC due to language and cultural barriers, received ten free books. In total, QLNB was able to deliver 94 new books to 25 children from 12 families.

This project was made possible by financial support from the City of Saint John, as wel as in-kind and materials support from the Department of Social Development - Housing and the Saint John Free Public Library.

QLNB weren't the only storytenters sidelined by the impact of Covid-19 and resulting restrictions on summer programming.  The Saint John Free Public Library was unable to provide their planned Storytent in the Courtenay Bay neighbourhood.  Knowing about our Anglin Drive plans, the Department of Social Development asked QLNB to help these neighbourhood families obtain quality reading materials and access to the library’s Summer Reading Club 2020.  Once again, we talked with our partners (the Department of Social Development - Housing and the Saint John Free Public Library) and developed a budget that would allow us to support approximately 20 children.

As was the case on Anglin Drive, each child would recieve two new books on our first visit, and two more when we returned three weeks later.  On our first visit, we relied on a community representative who had spoken with families in advance and who walked us around, introducing us to her neighbours.  In the end, seventeen children registered for SRC 2020, each receiving four new books to call their own. In addition, a newcomer family with two children, a resident’s grandchild, and five toddlers out and about in the neighbourhood received two free books each. In total, QLNB was able to deliver 84 new books to 25 children from 15 families.

Financial support from the Department of Social Development - Housing, and materials support from the Saint John Free Public Library, made this project possible.



Children expressed delight (and many adults surprise) at being able to keep the books.  For our part, we believe that reinforcing personal book ownership by giving away good quality books is an important factor in children coming or continuing to see themselves as readers.  QLNB also views this project as a practical way to support community literacy while respecting provincial COVID-19 guidelines.





P.s., for more information on books, borrowing and libraries in the current context, check out New Brunswick Public Libraries' COVID-19 and Your Library and, from earlier this year, a CBC webstory Is it safe to borrow library books? Your COVID-19 questions answered


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Community Literacy Work in a time of Covid-19: Part 1, Little Free Libraries

Most summers, QLNB supports and promotes family and community literacy by showing up - tents and tarps, boxes of books to read and borrow, writing materials and singing games and healthy snacks and laying about in the sunshine (or huddled away from the rain) talking with kids and adults about stories and words and "how's your week going?"

This year, things have been different.

Our first change in plans came when we recognized there would be no New Brunswick community event storytents because New Brunswick wasn't having community events.  In place of event tents, we chose to deliver a package of books, authored by New Brunswickers, to little free libraries in or near-by those south-western NB communities our 2020 event tents would have served.

While these gift-packs vary, most include seven small picture books for children and families published by the University of New Brunswick Early Childhood Centre, an NB authored board, picture, youth fiction and youth non-fiction book, and a fiction and non-fiction book for adults (e.g., David Adams Richard's Mercy Among the Children or Nicholas Guitard's Waterfalls of New Brunswick: A Guide).

We kicked off this project by placing a book pack in Red Head's Little Free library (pictured above), as well as stocking four laundry-room libraries in the Roxbury Drive public housing neighbourhood.

Major funding for this project comes from a New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture Literacy Promotion Grant.  Additional support has come from the New Brunswick Department of Social Development, a Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick - Peter Gzowski Invitational (PGI) grant, and various private and corporate donations.

 


P.s., for more information on books, borrowing and libraries in the current context, check out New Brunswick Public Libraries's COVID-19 and Your Library and, from earlier this year, a CBC webstory Is it safe to borrow library books? Your COVID-19 questions answered





Monday, July 27, 2020

Summer Reading Club 2020


You can sign up for the NB Public Library's Summer Reading Club online at https://www1.gnb.ca/0003/src=cle/2020/en/index-e.asp