Reasons To Read

If you’re not a reader, there are many reasons why you should become one.

A large chunk of my adult life did not include reading books for enjoyment. I was too busy, so I skimmed and scanned a lot of magazines and read the necessary work-related articles, never taking the time to enjoy a good book.  I had other things asking of my time. Almost 10 years ago when my father was very ill, I found myself in a hospital room, followed by sleepless nights.  I had to figure out a way to distract myself.

That’s when the book, an old friend, came back into my life. Oh, how I missed this friend! Like a true friend, the book was there for me, (if I hadn’t misplaced it). The book waited patiently for me to find it – I had unconditional love. It didn’t judge me if other priorities came up and I reconnected three days later.  Every day, my friend took me on adventures.  I missed the fun we had together.

If you find yourself in need of a friend, ask a book to be a part of your life.

In The Old Days…

I have always loved when someone takes the time to tell me a story about “the old days”.  You know, the ones where people walked to school uphill both ways through 10-foot snow drifts?  It’s especially meaningful to me when the storyteller is someone from my family – it’s amazing what I learn!!

This past weekend, my family was over.  I’m not sure how it even started, but my mom started telling stories of her childhood.  She didn’t have electricity or running water until she was a teenager – and this really wasn’t that long ago!  I won’t tell you her exact age, but it was within the last 50 years.  She told me things I had never known in my thirty some years, but were so interesting to hear.

In school this past year, my son had an assignment to find out more about his heritage.  He interviewed his great grandma who told him that our family has been in Canada for over 300 years!  I had no idea and we thought that was a pretty cool thing to learn.

Oral storytelling is one of those things – with the evolution of technology and just the way families are spread out these days – that has lost its appeal and practice.  People are often scared to try it, thinking they have to be elaborate stories that are told perfectly.  What they don’t realize is that the best told stories are really about them and their family’s own experiences and are told in their own way.

Children love to hear stories about the past.  Topics like how they got their name, where they lived, what school was like for their parents or grandparents, the fact that there was a time when everyone did not carry a computer in their hands (and yes, there was a time like this – try explaining that to young kids today), really interest them and is an important way to share information.

Children also like to tell stories.  Encourage them to do it – let them tell about an experience in their own way, without any prompts.  They usually won’t tell it like you, but listen carefully to let them know how important it is so they can practice this skill.  Not only will it build their oral skills, but also help with reading, as they understand the order and “rules” of stories.

Oral storytelling needs to make a come back.  There are games that you can play that help people get comfortable telling a story out loud, by making it silly, funny and safe.  This one I did with my team at a retreat and with my kids around a campfire.

The first person starts a line of the story and ends at a point where the next person has to decide what will happen.  For example:

“I was walking down a forest path when all of a sudden…”

The next person might say:

A huge bat jumped out in front of me waving a…”

As you can imagine, the story keeps going until it becomes too silly to continue (my team says I can’t write what ours looked like – they were embarrassed).   I have to say though; my team couldn’t hold a candle to what my kids came up with!!

A little more complicated is a game where you start a rhythm that everyone does the entire time and each person takes a turn to give one word (or syllable) for each snap.  The rhythm goes:

Slap (your leg with one hand)

Slap (your other leg with the other hand)

Snap (with one hand)

Snap (with the other hand)

For example the first person would do the slaps and then on each snap say a word like “One day”.

The next person would do the slaps and say on each snap “there were”.

The next person would do the same and say “horse-s”.  And on it would go until the rhythm gets mixed up.

Both these games are great fun and practice for oral storytelling.  Have fun with it and don’t forget to pass what you know to the next generation and encourage them to do the same.

A Learner’s Story

I met my English tutor, Mary-Frances Smith the summer of 2004 at the Centre for Family Literacy located on Jasper Ave.  I couldn’t believe my tutor is a zealous, young and beautiful lady. We met once a week at the centre or the library. I sent her a couple of e-mails as homework for my journal. She let me choose my own novels and grammar books, and we work at my own pace. I felt great progress from learning from her creative and flexible teaching.

I am a mother of three and have been in Edmonton for almost two decades. After I enrolled in the adult tutoring program with Mary, my life changed greatly; I got my job at the YMCA. I can handle the daily matters all by myself. Mary helped me to build my self-esteem. I independently solve the problems in my family and my work. She always advises me with her positive ideas!

Learner Story: There Is No Such Thing As Can’t

When I first went to the Centre for Family Literacy, I was scared to admit that I can’t read or write. I thought it was a school for special Ed people. But I saw people like me, who are the same as everyone, in the literacy program.

Then I met Debbie. She made me do a test to see what level I am at. Debbie got me to open up a lot, and she changed me in a way that changed my life. I was shy to read, but Debbie said “Take your time”.

When I learned how to read and write, I was so shocked that I wanted to learn more, to get to college and to be an actor.

I have been working with tutors for seven years, and I’m still learning more. I am reading a lot better. Now I can read to my kids. I read what I need to  at work and I am studying for a Class 3 driver’s license (to drive buses and semis). I feel like I know more about what is going on around me, and I pay more attention to the news. I even go on the computer more often.

My dad told me that there is no such thing as can’t, only can do.

Play-Based Learning

We, at the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. bus, like play.  We like to see parents (or Grandparents, or any other significant adult in a child’s life) come on the bus and spend time playing with their child. Interestingly, the Council of Ministers of Education Canada has recently released a statement recognizing the value of play-based learning.  You can read the whole statement here:

Even though we really like and encourage play, and we have all sorts of interesting and fun things to play with on the bus, there are just some things that don’t work well on a bus…like playdough.

Making playdough with your kids and then spending time playing with it can provide a rich learning experience and hours of entertainment.

So here is one of my favourite recipes for playdough:

Kool-aid playdough


• 1 – 11/4 cup flour

• 1/4 cup salt

• 1 pkg powdered unsweetened kool-aid (or other equivalent powdered drink mix)

• 1 cup boiling water

• 1 1/2 -2Tbsp vegetable oil


1.  In a bowl, mix 1 cup flour, salt and kool-aid (the brighter colours work best)

2.  Stir in water and oil

3.  Knead with hands.  Gradually add more flour and oil if needed.

Continue kneading for about 5 minutes.

4.  Play!

5.  Store in sealed bag in the fridge for up to 2 months.