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We all have our own literacy journey that has helped to influence our character, intellect and imagination 

An annual event I look forward to every year is Read In Week, a Division-wide initiative meant to encourage a lifelong love of reading. During the first week of October, students throughout the Division are treated to myriad activities all focused on getting students excited about reading and wanting to check books out of the library. For me, the highlight is reading to students. There’s something quite satisfying about seeing their faces light up while digging into a story—an experience I relate all too well with.

Even now, at my age, I’m not sure what I enjoy more, reading or being read to. Stuart McLean, W.P. Kinsella, Farley Mowat, W.O. Mitchell are just a few authors who I’ve sought out to hear over the years—there’s something intrinsically relaxing about sitting back and letting your mind drift while listening to someone else’s story. It’s engaging and somehow always gets me excited about discovering new books.

I’m not sure how, or even when, that love of reading started. When I look back at my early reading influences, my parents and teachers certainly played significant roles. My childhood home was filled with books and I enjoyed reading at school. The most influential though, was a family friend, Pierre Mousseau. He was the most voracious reader I have ever known. He was intelligent, curious and always knew precisely what book to hand me to read. The Mousseau house was filled with books and it was impossible to leave without one. The books opened my mind to adventure and possibilities and were always followed by meaningful conversation, prompting further armfuls of books.

Whether for pleasure or for academics, reading has enhanced how I think, explore, contemplate and debate. It has broadened my horizons, made me consider perspectives I otherwise would have ignored and, as such, has provided a path that has lead me to where I am today. We all have our own literacy journey that has helped to influence our character, intellect and imagination. That’s what literacy is all about. It’s more than simply just reading. It’s the foundation for all other skills—writing, understanding, interpreting, creating, communicating and thinking critically.

That’s why now more than ever, as the pace of change accelerates, it’s imperative we develop in students and teach a wide-reaching set of literacy skills. Every day, our students are exposed to information in ways we could have never imagined 20 or 30 years ago. Continually, they’re reading, writing and accessing content, from multiple sources, which then influences the way they obtain and understand knowledge. To facilitate that, there are countless initiatives taking place Division wide to support student literacy. Read In Week is one. More broadly, all of our schools within Elk Island Public Schools, are integrating literacy into every subjects and in every grade to get students thinking, talking and writing about the content we teach. Whether it’s language arts, math, social studies or science our students are immersed in literacy experiences—from reading and writing activities to language-building initiatives to modelling the thinking processes associated with each discipline. By doing this, we’re building interest, engagement, motivation, conversation and, by extension, enhancing our culture of literacy.

Similarly, Division wide we’re focused on building teacher capacity in literacy, developing targeted professional learning opportunities and creating a common practice to better assist students. Every one of our teachers are embracing being teachers of reading—regardless of grade or subject. Every discipline has its own literacy and as important as teaching the content it’s equally vital we’re teaching students how to navigate through that content. As a result, we’re enhancing our expertise in reading, offering stronger literacy programming and supporting student learning and success across all classrooms.

Additionally, we’re rolling out a new initiative this year, a challenge that encourages all our students to read 25 books during the school year. We also host several author tours within our schools. The most recent tour included students in grades 4 through 12 who were visited by award-winning Canadian authors Sigmund Brouwer, Natasha Deen, Shane Peacock and Eric Walters. Each used storytelling to emphasize the importance of literacy in a way that motivated many of our students to reach for a book. Coming up, we have the Young Authors’ Conference, Young Speakers Invitational, Wee Read, Battle of the Books Competition, Invention Convention and many others.

Big picture, the goal of this continued commitment to literacy is to inspire and guide students in their own literacy journey. By doing that, we’re in a stronger position than ever to support our students in achieving their goals, developing their knowledge and successfully navigating the world we live in.

 

Mark Liguori
Superintendent