A Momentous Event in Edmonton

Truth and Reconciliation Commission:  Alberta National Event

Edmonton Shaw Conference Centre March 27-30, 2014

A momentous event is taking place in Edmonton. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is holding the seventh and final national gathering to hear from and honour survivors of Indian Residential Schools.

This gathering will take place at the Shaw Conference Centre from Thursday of this week right through Sunday. There is no formal registration and the event is free. You can find all the details at:


The descriptions, times and places of all of the activities (sharing circles, panels, films, traditional ceremonies, discussions and dialogues, expressions of reconciliation) can be found in a downloadable program on the main website.

Until very recently most Canadians did not know the truth of the Indian Residential Schools. They did not know that over a period of 116 years about 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken, forcibly if necessary, from their homes, from loving parents, grandparents, extended families and communities to schools far away from their homes. That would have been bad enough but, in fact, the purpose of the schools was to break the connection of the children to their cultures, languages, traditions and spiritual beliefs, to “take the Indian out of them”. And there was more. The children were abused physically, psychologically and sometimes sexually. They were malnourished and lived in crowded, ill-kept schools. They died of TB, flu, and other illnesses, as well as from accidents.

This is a dark part of our history that we did not know until recently. I think it is hard for us to admit that in Canada such horrifying things were done to young children. Some people wish to deny that it happened. That is understandable, but it is not right. Now we can listen to the survivors, we can honour their suffering, we can work together to heal and reconcile our communities. In the final gathering this week (Mar 27-30), there will be sharing circles at different times every day, over the four-day period.

By attending we also honour the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities’ incredible strength, fortitude and ability to survive.

More information about the TRC can be found at the links below:

What is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3

Truth and Reconciliation Commission FAQ http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=10


Our Library is Waiting to be Discovered

Tucked away in a corner of a light industrial business park in west Edmonton is a gem of a library for beginning adult readers and their tutors. This small, specialized library (3,522 items) is cosily housed at the Centre for Family Literacy (CFL). In it you will find a section of workbooks, specifically written for adult learners, that explain and offer practice in phonics, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, composition, comprehension and fluency – all of the skills that must be mastered in order for one to learn to read fluently. These particular workbooks are not found in the Edmonton Public Library.

Especially good is The Active Reader, a series of workbooks from Foundations to Level 5 focussed on reading and writing, written by Linda Kita-Bradley and published by Grass Roots Press in Edmonton. Each book contains articles, with photographs, on five broad subjects – people, relationships, health and safety, the environment and significant Canadian historic events and people. They are up to date, relevant and engaging.

Across the aisle from the workbooks is the fiction section. We have over 1,330 novels on our shelves. The reading levels of the books range from F1 to F9 (approximately equivalent to grade levels). Most of the novels have been specially written with the adult literacy learner in mind. Vocabulary is basic, sentences are short and the page count is lower than mainstream fiction. Good Reads and Rapid Reads books are well-written, engrossing mysteries for the middle level reader. Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Louise Penny, Deborah Ellis (Good Reads) and Gail Bowen, Richard Wagamese, and Medora Sale (Rapid Reads) are just a few of the writers in these series.

I love what Neil Gaiman says about fiction and why he thinks it is important:

“Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end . . . that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key.”

The second thing that happens when we read fiction, according to Gaiman, is that it builds empathy. When we read fiction, we see through others’ eyes; we experience events that are worlds away, far from our own experience, our own time, place, and gender. Reading fiction changes us, he says. Read the whole article:


There are also sections on mathematics, science, the trades, life skills, and resources for tutors. One shelf is devoted to workbooks written for English Language Learners. Workbooks and audio tapes geared to the GED, IELTS, and TOEFL exams are popular. The non-fiction section contains a little of everything.

You will even find a small Aboriginal section. Books on the Métis people are currently highlighted, as this is Métis Week (November 11-16). For more information about the Métis in Alberta, link to: http://www.albertametis.com/MNAHome/Home.aspx

How the Library Works

Tutors and learners are given library cards. Both get a tour of the library when they come to the CFL for their initial interviews. As well, during the tutor training sessions, tutors learn how to access the library on the computers at the Centre.

When a new tutor and learner have been matched, they meet in the library at the CFL. The tutor has a sheet with information about the learner and some suggestions about what workbooks might be appropriate. But these are only suggestions. Over time as the tutor and learner come to know each other, as conversations become easy and trust develops, learners explain their reasons for wanting to learn and their goals. Sometimes the goals are specific; a learner may want to be able to read the Alberta Driver’s Handbook in order to get a driver’s license. Others may want to upgrade and work toward their GED. Perhaps the goal is to speak and write English clearly.

Together learner and tutor take the beginning steps towards the goal. And there, right next to them is the library, filled with hundreds of adventure stories and mysteries just waiting to be read. Workbooks that build the skills underlying fluent reading, or explain the basics of mathematics, are within reach. They are all doorways to knowledge, to expanded horizons, and to the sheer pleasure and escape of getting lost in a book – of being someone else, of being transported to other worlds and other times.

The library, the whole world, is waiting to be discovered.

National Aboriginal Day

This Friday, June 21 is National Aboriginal Day. There will be celebrations across the country during the week, as well as on Friday. It is an opportunity for us to enjoy the summer solstice (at last!) and celebrate Aboriginal peoples and their cultures at the same time.

The Manito Ahbee (a festival organization) in Winnipeg is partnering with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) to host a National Aboriginal Day Competition Pow Wow at the Forks on June 22. You can follow the action live online, courtesy of the APTN, at http://www.aboriginaldaylive.com/. Click on the link to read all about it.

Among the entertainers at the Pow Wow will be A Tribe Called Red. I love this song of theirs, called Look At This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBCoDAbh3yM. The song made for a great hip hop/pow wow performance during last year’s celebrations in Toronto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEpD3yQ3p_4

Edmonton Celebrations

The City of Edmonton has provided a poster for some of the National Aboriginal Day local events.  Click here: http://www.edmonton.ca/attractions_recreation/documents/NAD2013EventsPoster.pdf

The event on Saturday at the Legislature Grounds is the one of the nicest to attend. The grounds are beautiful to walk and the Artisan Fair and the Community Cultural Exhibits Display, set up by 2 p.m., guarantee there is lots to see. The Grand Entry and Ceremonial Honouring starts at 5 p.m. and a there is a concert at 6 p.m. If you haven’t been before, I really encourage you to go.

Bent Arrow will be serving a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. on June 21 and following that up with face painting, traditional games, dancers and drummers and something that sounds untraditional but interesting: a “bouncy castle”! Details here: http://bentarrow.ca/?s=june+21+pancake+brea

Finally, St. Albert is hosting an Aboriginal Day Festival on June 23. The Opening Ceremony will begin at 12 noon. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/AboriginalDay.StAlbert

Come and join the fun!

Cooking Up Some New Ideas

The library at the Centre for Family Literacy needs some new cookbooks, so I am looking for suggestions.  They can be old favourites, practical recipes for busy families, or the newest thing in cuisine.  For me personally, when it comes to cookbooks, it is what else is in the cookbook that interests me – I don’t always want just recipes! I want to hear about other countries, thrilling travels, all of the different cuisines the traveller encounters and the history behind their dishes.

One of my favourite cookbooks is Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, by Najmieh Batmanglij. The “Silk Road” was an ancient trade route that meandered west out of China, across Asia and Northern India, to Persia, Arabia, Byzantium and all the way to Italy.  This book is filled with songs, stories and poems – ancient and new. There are beautiful pictures, drawings, maps, and recipes!  Some of the recipes go back 1200 years. I just love this book.

What kind of cookbooks do you like?  Do you have any favourites, any recommendations?

Summer Reading

Okay, this will seem like an odd choice for summer reading, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway.  I recently catalogued and shelved a complete set of Apprenticeship Support Materials for our library.  These study materials cover every competency in the “Entrance Level Competencies for Apprenticeship Programs”.  There are manuals or guides for reading comprehension, math and science – 11 guides in all covering exam levels 1 through 5.

Partly my interest was piqued because if there is one thing we know in Alberta, it is that there is a driving need for skilled trades people.  Industry scours the world looking for them.  So I was interested in what is involved in becoming an apprentice in one of the trades.  I opened the Math Module 1 – Foundations.

Right away I was impressed with how clearly the guide was written.  Everything is explained, words are defined and there are tips and helpful pieces of advice all along the way.

These guides are designed for independent study.  There are 5 levels from foundational concepts of numbers and operations in Module 1 to the complexities of equations & patterns, vectors, and statistics & probability in Module 5.

Parameters are clearly defined: it stresses that what will be assessed at each level is “what you know” rather than “how you learned it”, and that only what you need to know for entrance into a trade will be assessed.

In a side bar is the tip: “Don’t waste time. Only learn what you need to know.”

I flipped through the guide to the section on “Bases, Exponents and Square Roots” and started to read.  Neurons that hadn’t fired in decades lit up and the next thing you know I was working on a problem:

“Calculate the cube of 3 ¾. Express the mixed number as an improper fraction and multiply.”

Okay, so that’s 3 times 4 = 12 plus 3 is 15 over 4.  Then 15 cubed is 3375 over 4 cubed is 64.  Then divide 64 into 3375 and I get 52.73.  Uncover the answer – yes I’m right.  Eee-haw.

Okay, I know this is pretty basic math but it was actually fun.  Getting a problem “right” is a good feeling.  I mean everything else in life is in shades of grey, but in math you’re either right or you’re wrong.


(And now I’ll wait for the math whizzes to tell me of the complexity of the mathematical language, its nuances and shades all that it contains.  Gulp.)

For more information, go to these websites: