March 22, 2017

Micheline Maylor, Calgary’s Poet Laureate, shares her sHelfie:

What’s our Poet Laureate reading?

We guessed poetry. And we’re right. Calgary’s Poet Laureate, Micheline Maylor, shares her favourite poetry (and other) reads as part of her Calgary Reads’ My sHelfie.

“Reading for me was like a salvation and a passage into other worlds. I volunteered at the library in grade five and lovingly learned the Dewey Decimal System. I once had the goal of reading around the library, starting on the bottom shelf. Voracious reading is soul nourishing and essential. Vitamin R for Reading.” Micheline Maylor 

 These books are important to me:

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

“This is the book that made me fall in love with poetry, way back in Grade five. I still give it as a gift to all of my young child and child-hearted friends. Thanks Ms. McPherson wherever you are, for introducing me to this book in 1981.”

Short Talks by Anne Carson

“Poetry has been described as the feel between the words, the connection between image and sensation. This collection of prose/poem/essay generates fireworks every time I read it. It is consistently inspirational for its odd and lovely comparisons.”

Niche by Basma Kavanagh

“Kavanagh is a new/contemporary author and her meditation in poetry on the extinction of humanity is both dark and playful. She manages a very difficult topic without sentimentality or preaching. It is also an exquisitely lovely book to hold with its full illustrations. Niche is a worthy new discovery.”

Attack of the Copula Spiders: Essays on Writing by Douglas Glover

“The first three essays of this book taught me about literary style and editing. These essays are still invaluable in teaching and understanding why a passage of prose “works”. Often, we hear the words “it works” or “it doesn’t” work without the explanation. Glover’s essays explain in clear terms.”

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“Despite its content, the structure and mastery of the sentence level craft is delicious and delightful. At last count I’ve read the book 36 times and still find new symbols and ways that Nabokov plays with language. It’s a heartbreak every time.”     

Micheline Maylor < http://michelinemaylor.com> is a Canadian poetacademiccritic and editor. She was appointed Calgary’s Poet Laureate on April 25, 2016.


March 7, 2017

Bill Ptacek, CEO, Calgary Public Library, shares his sHelfie:

“I think a library is so powerful. It builds community. It helps people have more success through all that occurs through reading; whether that’s people searching for jobs, building their knowledge in higher education, or children reading and finding the magic in stories. At the Calgary Public Library we celebrate the amazing power of reading and strive for a more literate community.”

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

“As a youngster, this was the book that got me most interested in reading. I didn’t do well in grade two and three and really had a turnaround with this book. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, these stories took me somewhere quite different—and, I really liked how Sherlock Holmes ‘deduced’! A great read.”

The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald (or any by him)

“Back in the 1980s my wife (she’s a librarian too) and I moved from Chicago to Idaho Falls – it was quite a change; you couldn’t get much further away! We had our first child, a daughter who was developmentally disabled and it was a very difficult time for us. We started reading mysteries together and discussing them (we had no cable and no family nearby) . . . and these truly helped save our lives.”

Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons

“This is one of the very first books Oprah recommended through her book club; it’s a story of strong women growing up in tough circumstances. This had a real impact on me and my wife. We’d gone on to have two more daughters so helping young women grow and develop well was important to us. I gave it to my middle daughter to read when she was in middle school and the teacher was horrified . . . but we felt it was an important experience for her to explore strong women, ability and perseverance!”

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

“This book shares instructions on writing and life. It was recommended to me by a friend when I was battling cancer and speaks to how handling one thing at a time, working through something chunk-by-chunk – and not trying to deal with everything at once – is a successful strategy. This book helped me through my challenging health period; I believe its message can resonate in many situations, for many people. It’s very good. The Calgary Public Library has copies, of course.”

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

“This book is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. This powerful story shows how he is able to deal with ‘being wronged’. Nancy Pearl, the renowned US librarian and tremendous book promoter chose this novel as her ‘reading in community’ pick in Seattle when she encouraged thousands to read along together.”

Backpack Mockup

March 1, 2017

Literacy Backpacks

Literacy backpacks contain books and related activities for children and their caregivers to read and do together. They are often prepared by teachers and loaned out to families to bring literacy into the home and build home/school, parent/teacher partnerships. Numerous school districts in Alberta have had backpack programs, including ones in Canmore, Red Deer, and Vermillion; but parents and playgroups can build them too!

Literacy backpacks are often assembled around a particular theme. This may take the form of a topic such as dinosaurs, an author, a genre, an age group or audience, or a big question.

A typical literacy backpack contains one or more books, a letter to parents explaining how to use the backpack, directions and materials for games and activities, and a checklist to ensure that everything is returned properly. For example, a literacy backpack on insects might contain a poster on different kinds of insects, a copy of The Hungry Caterpillar, a magnifying glass or insect jar, and a small sketch book.

Research shows that literacy backpacks have numerous benefits—for everyone involved:

  • Schools help make reading fun, interesting, and accessible outside of school.
  • Teachers engage and build relationships with parents and reinforce classroom teaching with learning at home.
  • Parents and caregivers are more involved, have an opportunity to model reading, and grow more confident in their abilities as their children’s first and best teachers. Family involvement is a key factor in developing children’s reading skills.
  • Students benefit by receiving additional reading support at home, making connections between text and real world activities, and developing an enthusiasm for reading.
  • Literacy Backpacks can reach families that do not typically participate in school-based events.
  • One backpack sent home as an example can inspire children and their families to create their own.

Remember that literacy development begins from birth, so even if you care for a child that isn’t in school yet, you can create your own pack of books, artifacts, games, and activities to enjoy and learn together!

If you work at an Alberta Reads school, ask your Literacy Coach for your copy of What’s in Your Backpack?—Calgary Reads’ newest Literacy-in-a-Box modulefor a complete toolkit on building your own literacy backpacks. If you’re interested in running the module, we will send you a box of books and 25 new drawstring backpacks you can use to create your own literacy backpacks.

Research & Resources

Literacy Backpacks in Teacher Education by Robin Bright, University of Lethbridge

Home Literacy Bags Promote Family Involvement by Ann C. Barbour

-Liz’s Early Learning Spot blog contains tips for making “awesomely effective” literacy bags

-Reading Rockets has a large selection of themed reading adventure packs.