Wednesday, April 30, 2008

B.C. slips in national tests

Vancouver Sun Blogs: 2008 April 29

It is, of course, only a snapshot, but I was surprised by B.C.'s performance in the latest national test of reading, math and science. Our 13-year-olds scored below the Canadian mean, while Quebec, Alberta and Ontario continued to rank above.

Quebec and Alberta are often Canada's top performers in national and international standardized tests, but B.C. isn't usually far behind. Perhaps this was a blip.

Quebec students were best in reading and math while the Albertans were tops in science. Ontario was close behind. The test, called the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program, was administered last year to 30,000 students in public and private schools across the country.

Overall, the results were good, with 88 per cent of all students reading at expected levels. But the results from Quebec were several percentage points higher.

Why? Here's an interesting explanation from Kelly Lamrock, chair of the Council of Ministers of Education Canada, which administered the test:

"Quebec has a formidable record of having invested aggressively in early childhood education and interventions when kids struggle early," he said.
Canwest News Service quotes him further as saying Quebec is "ahead of the curve" and may now be seeing returns. Read the full story

This raises the bar for B.C. in its bid to become the most literate jurisdiction in North America by 2015.

To no one's surprise, the study also found that girls are stronger readers than boys. Lamrock is quoted as saying it's now probably safe to call that gender gap a trend.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913

A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

'Depressing' budget on way

Surrey Now: 2008 April 29
Jessica Kerr

Delta school trustees heard pleas last week to save certain areas from cuts as they continue to struggle with difficult budget deliberations.

Those in attendance at a pair of public meetings acknowledged the Delta school board has difficult decisions ahead. The school district is facing a shortfall of $3.08 million, which has the board considering cutting 26 full-time equivalent positions, as well as reductions to several other areas, in order to produce a balanced budget.

"This is bad, and will probably get worse," said Colin Pawson, president CUPE Local 1091, at Tuesday's meeting.

"At least 26 families will have their family income impacted. This is the human cost of these cuts," he said.

The deficit, the worst the board has seen in almost a decade, can be attributed to a number of factors - a loss in government grant funding, a decline in student enrolment and a decrease in the number of international students.

Cuts will impact a wide range of areas, including administration, custodial, teacher-librarians, clerical and educational assistants. The board is looking at reducing teacher-librarian time in some of the smaller elementary schools as well as reducing educational assistant time for special needs students by an average of five hours per week per elementary school.

Val Windsor, president of the Delta Teachers' Association, called it an "equal opportunity depressing budget."

"When the district is striving to maintain the goal of literacy... when you're cutting out time from the library you're cutting at the heart of that."

Windsor appealed to the board to submit two budgets to the Ministry of Education - a balanced budget, which the school district is legally required to do, and a "needs" budget, which will show the government how much funding the district needs to maintain its current levels of staff and programs.

The two special meetings were a chance for stakeholders and the public to offer input into the proposed budget. The board will vote on the budget today (Tuesday).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Authors of The 100- Mile Diet

Vancouver Sun: 2008 April 28
Sun Books Editor rwigod@ png. canwest. com

To no one’s surprise, The 100- Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating has won its authors, J. B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, a coveted BC Book Prize.

The memoir, cast in the popular form of a year- long experiment, documents the pair’s effort to eat nothing but locally grown food, for environmental reasons. It won them the Roderick Haig Brown Regional Prize and $ 2,000 at a downtown ceremony Saturday night.

Because of the book, the expression “100- mile diet” is now known around the world. The memoir spent months on bestsellers’ lists, neck- and- neck with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book with a similar theme by the famous American novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

At the BC Book Prizes gala, emceed by TV talk- show host Fanny Kiefer (who invites her guests, many of them authors, to “tell us more”), Mary Novik took the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for her historical novel, Conceit.

Nominated last fall for the prestigious Giller Prize, it’s set in 17th- century England. Its characters include Samuel Pepys and Izaak Walton, but it’s primarily the story of poet John Donne, his passionate love for his wife and his relationship with daughter Pegge — a storyline that sprang from Novik’s imagination, since the historical record of Margaret Donne’s life is scanty.

Novik, a former English literature instructor at Langara College, has spent the last two months reading the novels of her competitors in the fiction category. Like her, finalist David Chariandy ( whose Caribbean-inflected novel is titled Soucouyant) made last fall’s Giller short list.

The Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize went to Quadra Island polymath Robert Bringhurst for Everywhere Being Is Dancing. It’s a collection of talks and meditations on the principle that “everything is related to everything else.”

Bringhurst is a translator known for his English renderings of Haida legends, so accompanying the book’s English narrative are passages in Haida, Tlingit, Cree, Chinese, German and Russian.

Rita Wong, an assistant professor at the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize for Forage. It’s her second collection and, with a cover photo showing a mountain of discarded circuitboards, is concerned with the environment and methods of taking political action.

B. C. Lt.- Gov. Steven Point attended the festivities, presenting the $5,000 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence to Gary Geddes. It was established five years ago to reward writers who have made major contributions to the development of literary excellence in B. C. Geddes has an impressive body of work in several genres — poetry and memoir, particularly — and had vast influence on emerging writers during his years as a professor.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Ministry of Education: 2008 April 26

VICTORIA – The Province is backing a pilot program to increase immigrant families’ literacy skills, Education Minister Shirley Bond and Attorney General and Minister responsible for Multiculturalism Wally Oppal announced today.

“This government is committed to making B.C. the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent,” said Bond. “While more than one million adult British Columbians struggle with low literacy levels, they come from every background imaginable, and we know that immigrant families have unique challenges and need these unique services.”

The Immigrant Parents as Literacy Supporters (Immigrant PALS) pilot is for immigrant families and preschool-aged children who have been in Canada for up to three years. The program responds to the cultural and linguistic needs of immigrant families while helping their children start school set for success.

The announcement is taking place to wrap up English as an Additional Language Awareness Week.

“The language and literacy abilities of refugee and immigrant families impact every area of their lives,” said Oppal. “This program is another creative approach that WelcomeBC is taking to ensure the successful adaptation and integration of newcomers and their families to British Columbia.”

The pilot will take place in the Lower Mainland at seven different neighbourhood schools in the Abbotsford, Burnaby, Langley and Surrey school districts. The North Shore Multicultural Society will pilot a site in a North Vancouver school. Most sites will be tailored to specific languages, whether Farsi, Karen, Mandarin, Punjabi or Vietnamese. Each will host up to 25 families for half-day workshops 10 times a year for three years.

Through WelcomeBC, the Ministry of Attorney General is providing $615,000 over three years to the Ministry of Education in support of the partnership between the Ministry of Education and 2010 Legacies Now.

“With the support of government, we are focusing on those groups that will benefit most from such a program,” said Brenda Le Clair, managing director of strategic development and partnerships for 2010 Legacies Now. “Immigrant PALS will help us include everyone as we create lasting legacies in British Columbia, leading up to 2010 and beyond.”

Immigrant PALS will generate materials that could help grow the program into schools across the province. The program, administered by Literacy Now, part of 2010 Legacies Now, will build on the success of the existing Parents as Literacy Supporters (or PALS program) that gives all parents and caregivers strategies to encourage learning in their preschool and kindergarten-aged children.

Immigrant PALS is made possible through funding from the Government of Canada, and is one of many services available through WelcomeBC, a provincial initiative to help immigrants access existing and expanded services under a single umbrella. For more information, visit

Immigrant PALS and PALS also complement ReadNow BC, the province’s literacy action plan, which includes a growing number of StrongStart BC early learning centres. Since 2001, the Province has now announced more than $136 million in new literacy programs and services in support of its goal of making British Columbia the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction in North America.

Visit to view an outline of a typical PALS session.

The library's dynamo in high heels

Rebecca Wigod
Vancouver Sun
Saturday, April 26, 2008

A klezmer band played in Library Square after Wednesday's announcement that The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, a 500-page novel about the Jewish immigrant experience in Canada by Karen X. Tulchinsky, is the choice for the Vancouver Public Library's 2008 One Book, One Vancouver program.

The library has hundreds of copies available, including sets of 10 for book clubs, so you'll be seeing lots of people engrossed in it on beaches and patios this summer.

Librarian Janice Douglas, who started One Book and a host of the VPL's other community-minded programs, was there in her trademark jewelry and spike heels. She's retiring Friday, after a 41-year career, so getting the city-wide book club's seventh season off the ground set her reminiscing about how it all started.

"[Librarian] Nancy Pearl was the first one to start one, in Seattle. People were saying, 'Why don't we start one?' I thought, 'One more thing!' But then we got a little group together and put it in our strategic goals. I thought, 'We can just do this. It can't be that difficult.'

"The part that kind of floored me was that when we were looking at the budget, [we discovered that] Seattle had taken three years to plan and had a budget of $103,000. I just laughed hysterically.

"We had $3,000. We're nickling-and-diming all the time to try and make a great idea come to fruition, but in this case it was such a good idea."

Finding a book that will get all of Vancouver talking, ideally a gem that people might have missed when it appeared, has become increasingly difficult, she says. The search now takes five months.

Douglas, who believes in the power of story to illuminate and educate, has a bifurcated job title: She has been the library's director of youth services and community programming.

On the programming side, she can take credit for inviting authors into the library to read from their work. These readings have been going on for 25 years -- they started in the old Burrard Street library, back before there was a Vancouver International Writers Festival -- and are now so numerous that some nights there are two or three to choose from.

"It's music to my ears," she says, "when somebody comes down the stairs, looks at the posters and says, 'Oh, I want to go to all of them!' "

Nonetheless, library staff didn't like the readings at first. "They resented the incursion on their study space, they resented the noise and, most of all, because we were allowing booksellers and publishers to sell books, this was [seen as] huge commercialization of the public library."

She loves the way readings give emerging and mid-list writers exposure while offering the public a stimulating evening with no admission fee. "Not everybody can afford the writers' festival."

On the youth-services side of her job, Douglas started storytime for babies, inviting toddlers and even infants into the library because being read to at a tender age is a foundation for literacy.

"Many of my colleagues really thought we were crazy. Of course, now everybody does it."

On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., a stiletto-shod Janice Douglas will be in the library's Alice MacKay Room to introduce Tulchinsky's first reading in what promises to be a lively One Book season. After that, she'll be doing other things with her evenings.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Too many schools, not enough students: TDSB

National Post: 2008 April 25
By Natalie Alcoba

The forecast at the Toronto District School Board is one of decline. It has lost about 30,000 students over the past eight years, and will lose another 30,000 by 2016. Forty schools sit half-empty, dozens more are barely at 60% capacity.

Meanwhile, the cost of repairing and refurbishing ageing facilities is on the rise. The board says it will need $1.4-billion in maintenance work by the fall. “The TDSB is spending too many dollars on buildings instead of students,” trustees learned from staff in the facilities department last summer. “Change is inevitable.”

Now the TDSB is looking at the very properties that are draining its resources as a possible solution.

Staff estimate that as much as $3-billion in excess real estate could be sold off — some of it tied up in 83 buildings that sit empty or leased.

Last year, the board convened a group of well-respected urban development giants to review those properties; this month, it approved a blueprint for future school closures, which pushes a bigger school model that maximizes space, and suggests middle schools might be phased out.

But as this month’s debate over closing 39 school pools illustrated, any changes will likely be met with fierce resistance. Even on the board there are divisions on what kinds of schools Toronto children need.

Trustee Bruce Davis offers a passionate defence of “village” schools. He counts a number of small schools in his ward of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and said they are in the business of “incubating” student success. Virtually every staff member knows every student, and “that is a very powerful thing.”

“It’s just a different vision,” said Mr. Davis, who voted against the closures blueprint. ‘‘Maybe we can’t have everything, but I don’t think it’s a crisis, and I don’t think we should be going to a widget model of large schools.”

TDSB chairman John Campbell asked: “How low does enrolment have to go before we take action?”

Students across the system are being shortchanged, he argues, from those attending small inner-city schools that cannot offer an array of courses, to suburban children who have waited five years for a local school to be built.

“It’s about making better use of the school space that we have, and it’s also providing more enriching program opportunities for students.”

Adding to the TDSB’s quandary is the burgeoning enrolment in some inner suburbs.

The TDSB gets no money from the provincial government to build schools because of its surplus space, said Sheila Penny, in charge of the facilities department.

It has been able to pay for new schools in suburban areas that are growing by quietly selling off properties it no longer needs. That is how Thomas L. Wells elementary school in Scarborough-Rouge River was built three years ago. With 618 students, it is four children shy of capacity.

“In the northeast part of the city, our schools are literally bursting at the seams,” said trustee Shaun Chen.

Five hundred students living near Meadowvale Road and Sheppard Avenue have been taking a five-kilometre bus trip to a holding school for the past few years because the board has been unable to build a school sooner.

Scarborough-Rouge River and Don Valley West were the only two wards in the city facing space crunches last year. In contrast, the inner-city ward of Davenport is the most under-enrolled.

“To me, there are some areas where consolidation makes common sense,” Mr. Chen said.

Investing in new schools, or upgrading dilapidated older ones, also makes sense: Thomas L. Wells’ environmentally sensitive design shaves 40% off its energy bill.

But it is not easy to find money for new schools at the TDSB, Mr. Chen said.
That the province “sees us as a system and doesn’t see us as a collection of individual, very diverse neighbourhoods” sets the stage for trade-offs, he lamented.

Further, he said, the province now wants to expand to full-day kindergarten. ‘‘If we are going to have our kindergarten doubled, we’re going to need space across the city,” Mr. Chen said.

One thing that is clear: The board is gearing up for a major reorganization that will start small, in wards with trustees who are eager to tear down the old to make room for the new.

“Politically, there’s a stronger will and recognition on this elected board than there was in the last elected board on moving in that direction,” chairman John Campbell said.

“Yes, some schools will close that have students in them. Those students will hopefully be better off by going to a new school where there are more students, more programs. And with the selling off of some properties we will have raised money to make capital improvements in the remaining schools.”

The recently approved report from the General Asset and Program Planning (GAPP) committee sets parameters that will keep schools accessible to its students, either by foot for the younger students or by public transit for those in high schools.

And it pushes for innovation in education — secondary students may in the future, for example, attend “a network” of schools that offer a larger breadth of programming. It also pegs optimal school size at 450 for elementary schools, and 1,200 in high school, a point that drew Mr. Davis out of his chair in opposition at the last board meeting.

Mr. Davis was one of five trustees to vote against the report.

“I’m not sure there is an optimal size,” Mr. Davis said in an interview this week. “There may be a size below which a school is not viable... and I see some schools that are so small, that it’s hard to get the grade configuration.”

But he worries that the guidelines set out in the GAPP report were made with the provincial funding formula, not the interests of the child, in mind.

“The funding formula says you get a teacher-librarian if you have 450 kids, so where do you think the 450 came from?”

Meanwhile, he pointed out, the boards energy bill is $75-million a year.

“We don’t have one solar panel on one school, anywhere. There are [other] things we can do to help reduce the $40-milion shortfall.’’

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Board looks at cutting 26 jobs

Faced with a $3 million deficit, trustees embark on difficult task of trying to balance the 2008/09 budget

Jessica Kerr, The Delta Optimist
Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Delta school trustees will consider significant staff layoffs next week in an effort to make up a multi-million-dollar shortfall in the 2008/09 budget.

Superintendent Steve Cardwell and secretary treasurer Grant McRadu, who released the proposed budget Monday, said the district is looking at cutting 26 full-time equivalent positions to address a $3.08 million deficit.

"These have been difficult budget considerations," Cardwell said. "However, I am confident that the district has made every effort to ensure that our first priority remains with our classrooms and students to minimize, to the extent possible, reductions on those critical areas. We will continue to provide the best quality education to support the needs of all learners in our community."

The staff cuts will hit both schools and the school board office. Cardwell said more specifics on the positions couldn't be made public at this time.

Cuts will impact a wide range of areas, including administration, custodial, teacher-librarians, clerical and educational assistants.

The deficit, the worst the board has seen in almost a decade, can be attributed to a number of factors, including a loss in government grant funding, a decline in student enrollment and a decrease in the number of international students.

In addition to addressing the budget shortfall for the upcoming year, McRadu said the district is going to have to adjust its fiscal practices. As enrollment has declined the district has continued to operate in the same way it did when the student population was at its height.

Since the late 1990s, the number of students in Delta has decreased from 18,000 to closer to 15,000.

"We need to adjust ... to become a district of 15,000," McRadu said.

These changes will include looking at ways to generate more revenue. Cardwell said the district is looking at attracting more international students from other countries.

"If the Ministry of Education funding continues to fall short of our educational requirements, we will need to increase our revenues or be forced to continue to make difficult budget reductions. This may include having to look at the number of facilities we continue to operate and maintain," McRadu said.

"When almost 90 per cent of our budget is made up of salaries, it is very difficult to make cuts of this size without eliminating positions. We have attempted to keep staff reductions to a minimum."

District officials say the outlook would be even worse if reserve funds weren't available.

"The board has been able to utilize limited reserves as well as revenues from the International Student Program, Continuing Education and other entrepreneurial programs," said board chair Kelly Guichon. "If the board had not been fiscally conservative and set aside reserves in previous years, the cuts to our programs would have been much larger."

The board held a public meeting last night to invite feedback on the proposed budget. A second public meeting is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at the board office on Harvest Drive in Ladner.

Trustees will vote on the budget April 29.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Information alert

A recent survey shows many students from the so-called 'Google generation' lack the basic skills needed for online research

Guardian, UK: 2008 April 22
Wendy Wallace

In real life, Sheila Webber is a senior lecturer in information studies at Sheffield University. In Second Life, she is Sheila Yoshikawa, blue-haired babe and cultivator of a Japanese garden - Webber's avatar in the online virtual world populated by millions. "I see her as a digital extension of me. I do some teaching, some professional networking and some shopping. I have a huge wardrobe and I'm much thinner."

Webber's enthusiasm for this virtual world supports recent research deflating the myth that the "Google generation", born in or after 1993, is completely at home online, able to trawl for whatever knowledge they require, while older people fail to get to grips with it.

In what is proving a wake-up call for libaries, Dr Ian Rowlands and his colleagues at the Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research (Ciber), based at University College London's centre for publishing, examined research literature on the information-seeking behaviour of the virtual scholar - and combined this with an analysis of the use made of British Library and Joint Information Systems Committee (Jisc) websites.

The report, Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, found users "power-browsing" or skimming material, using "horizontal" (shallow) research. Most spent only a few minutes looking at academic journal articles and few returned to them. "It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense," said the report authors.

But this behaviour was not restricted to "screenagers". "From undergraduates to professors, people exhibit a strong tendency towards shallow, horizontal, flicking behaviour in digital libraries. Factors specific to the individual, personality and background are much more significant than generation."The research backed up Rowlands' own experiences. His 14-year-old daughter is "just like I was," he says "She rarely texts and spends most of her time reading." His 80-year-old father-in-law, by contrast, is "wired out of his head ... He didn't touch a keyboard until he retired at 65. But now he wants to be online wherever he is, even on holiday."

One report found that around 20% of the so-called Google generation are, like Hannah Rowlands, "digital dissidents". "They've dropped ICT at school like a hot brick and think computers are for dad," says Rowlands. Another 57% of the age group are "average joes", who may not boycott new technology but make no particular use of it either. "It's very unhelpful to stereotype. Demographics are not the point."

Many libaries have assumed young students have learned to use the internet for research simply by virtue of their age. But while many are proficient with Facebook and Wikipedia, they may not be information- literate. Many lack lack the skills to differentiate between authoritative information and amateur blogging. "They don't have the idea of different sources," says Rowlands. "There is no mental map." Tara Brabazon, professor of media in the school of computing, mathematical and information science at Brighton University, made headlines recently when she described Google as "white bread for the mind" and banned her media studies students from using it.

But Brabazon is enthusiastic about the potential for online study, once students know how to do it. As a specialist first-year teacher, she provides new students with extensive reading lists of materials to be found off- and online. "The advantage of my system is that, wherever they have come from, they are put on a level playing field. It enables them to read materials of the set level required of them. Because if they don't know the names of the primary theorists, what are they going to put in the search engine?"

Intellectual rigour
While Sheffield University's Webber accepts the need for this kind of traditional intellectual rigour, she points to useful material on the internet and that's aside from the peer-reviewed journal articles that are the academic gold standard. Students can benefit from reading other students' essays, even if they don't cite them. The Google generation report itself, she points out, has not appeared in a journal.

Students of all ages need to learn to make independent assessments of the quality of material by looking at the authors' experience, funders, use of sources, and where published. "They have to be taught these skills explicitly," says Webber. "Some academics recognise its importance but don't see it as their job to teach it. University librarians do see it as their responsibility - but there aren't enough of them to do it. Academics must join in."

Rowlands suggests in his study that schools are failing to equip students for independent online study. Academics and librarians are debating nationally and internationally whether students should be taught information literacy as a separate , accredited, skill - as occurs in some American institutions. Or whether it would be better to teach them to navigate virtual libraries within their main subjectbased studies - an approach favoured by many information specialists."

Critical appraisal is needed," insists Peter Burnhill, director of the Edina national data centre at Edinburgh University. "There is too much stuff out there and, if you don't engage your brain, you won't get results."

Rowlands asked students doing masters degrees in publishing how much they thought London University spent in a year on its online academic journal collection. One guessed £10,000, another said £20,000. But the answer is closer to £2m, he says, highlighting the urgency of getting students up to speed on use of digital libraries. "The future is now. It is no use waiting.

There is a clear message that young people have not been taught to construct a proper search and evaluate the results. Libraries are spending a fortune on premium content, but fundamental skills are lacking."

Information Behaviour (UCL) report:



Sheila Webber

Monday, April 21, 2008

BC Literacy Forum

Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy

EdInfo Digest: 2008 April 21

This past April 14 and 15, B.C. played a key part
in the nation-wide, Pan-Canadian Interactive
Literacy Forum. The forum was the first of its
kind, using leading-edge, B.C.-proven
webcasting technology, including real-time
streaming video, to connect 3,500 learners,
literacy experts and representatives from the
education, non-profit, business and labour
sectors. The technology will be used to leave a
legacy of resources online, benefiting educators,
learners, literacy providers, and all Canadians for
years to come.

Concurrent forums took place in nine sites across
the country, ranging from Arviat, Nunavut to
Saint John, New Brunswick to Vancouver. Each
site took on a specific theme associated with
literacy. B.C.’s theme was “Communities Working
Together for Literacy.”

B.C. is the Pan-Canadian lead for literacy and
worked with the Council of Ministers of
Education, Canada
(CMEC) and our colleagues in
the other jurisdictions to organize the forum.

The forum is the first step in implementing
CMEC’s new literacy action plan, which aims to
raise awareness and increase literacy rates from
coast to coast to coast. The action plan includes
sharing literacy policies among the provincial and
territorial governments, creating networks of
organizations and individuals to gather and share
teaching resources for learners of all ages, and
encouraging additional literacy research, statistic
sharing, and the effective use of data.

2008 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award Winner and Honour Books

CLA: 2008 April 21

The Canadian Association of Children’s Librarians, of the Canadian Library Association/ Association canadienne des bibliothèques, is pleased to announce the 2008 Book Award winner and Honour books.

Chester, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt, published by Kids Can Press in 2007, is the winner. Mechanimals, written and illustrated by Chris Tougas (Orca Book Publishers) and My New Shirt, illustrated by Dušan Petričić and written by Cary Fagan (Tundra Books) are the honour books.

Chester, written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt, is a hilarious tale of a self-centred, sarcastic and artistic eponymous feline. In making its decision, committee members called the book inventive and fresh, laugh out loud funny, and thoroughly enjoyable. They also raved about Chester’s high “kid appeal”.

Watt’s superb use of line and composition delivers a unique interactive book where an enormous calico cat trades escalating verbal and visual assaults with his illustrator and a resourceful mouse. Chester suffers a humiliating episode with a pink tutu but, of course, has the last laugh. Or does he?

Honourable mention goes to Chris Tougas, writer and illustrator of Mechanimals. Committee members were drawn to the invigorating action, and the imaginative and inventive storyline. Mechanimals depicts a farmer who sees his life’s work destroyed in a tornado, leaving a mound of seemingly unusable junk metal. With his “can do” recycling spirit, the farmer welds together worker chick-bots, a cow-bot (complete with a chocolate milk dispenser) and ultimately a charming flying pig-bot which triumphantly transports the farmer to the moon. This book celebrates the power of perseverance, survival and a positive attitude.

Honourable mention also goes to My New Shirt, illustrated by Dušan Petričić and written by Cary Fagan. From the title page’s illustration, with a stiff white shirt strangling a boy with enormous ears, the reader knows that surprises and humour await. Committee members commented on the great layout and the impressive integration of illustration, text and story. Here is a family story, getting bigger and better with each telling, that hilariously illustrates the universal situation of receiving an unwanted gift.

A list of all the shortlisted titles is available on the CLA web site, www.cla@ca.

The Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbon Award is presented by the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians, a section of the Canadian Association of Public Libraries (CAPL). This medal award was established in 1971 and is presented annually to the illustrator of an outstanding children's book published during the previous calendar year. To merit consideration the book must be suitable for children up to age fourteen and have been published in Canada.

The award will be presented at this year’s Book Awards reception, on May 22, 2008, in Vancouver, British Columbia, during the CLA/ACB 2008 National Conference & Trade Show.

CAPL is a division of the CLA/ACB, is Canada’s largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the 2008 CLA Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Book Award Committee:
Helen Moore, Richmond Public Library, Chair
Evette Berry, Calgary Public Library
Elizabeth Thornley, Ottawa Public Library
Delilah Deanne Cummings, London Public Library
Linda Mireau, H.T. Coutts Education Library, Edmonton

Media Contact: Helen Moor, Chair, Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award
Senior Children’s Librarian, Richmond, BC
Phone: 604-737-7353

2008 Young Adult Book Award Winner and Honour Book

CLA: 2008 April 21

The Young Adult Services Interest Group of the Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is pleased to announce the 2008 Young Adult Canadian Book Award winner and Honour Books for books published in 2007.

Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks, published by Groundwood Books, is the winner. The Space Between by Don Aker, published by HarperCollins, and Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock, published by Tundra Books, are Honour Books.

In Martha Brooks’ Mistik Lake, family secrets are explored in an intergenerational narrative. When Odella’s mother leaves for another man, Odella must confront her mother’s past and cope with the impact it has on the way she sees the world. In this haunting and introspective story, Brooks creates a thoughtful character that will emotionally resonate with her readers.

In The Space Between, Don Aker takes a funny premise – a young man trying to lose his virginity - and uses it to explore friendship, love, guilt and loss. Using an exceptional narrative voice, Aker’s main character reflects on mistakes he and others have made, and grieves the loss of an important person in his life.

In Eye of the Crow, Shane Peacock creates a gritty, vivid world, as a young Sherlock Holmes survives the violent streets of 1860’s London in events that will haunt him for the rest of his life. This story will captivate audiences both young and old.

A complete list of the 2008 finalists, as well as information on past winners, is available on the CLA web site,

The Young Adult Book Award was established by the Young Adult Caucus of the Saskatchewan Library Association in 1980 and was subsequently transferred to the Young Adult Services Interest Group (YASIG) of the CLA/ACB. The award recognizes an author of an outstanding Canadian English-language work of fiction (novel or collection of short stories) that appeals to young adults between the ages of 13 and 18. Previous winners include William Bell, Shyam Selvadurai, Miriam Toews, and Polly Horvath.

The award will be presented at this year’s Book Awards reception, on May 22, 2008, in Vancouver, British Columbia, during the CLA/ACB 2008 National Conference & Trade Show.

The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is Canada’s largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the 2008 CLA/ACB Young Adult Book Award Committee:
Jessica Cammer, Regina Public Library
Thomas Long, Vancouver Public Library
Elsa Ngan, Toronto Public Library
Lisa Doucet, Halifax, N.S.
Carol Rigby, Iqaluit, Nunavut

Winner and Honour Title for the 2008 Canadian Library Association

CLA: 2008 April 21

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, published by Scholastic Canada Ltd. in 2007, has been chosen as the winner of the 2008 Book of the Year for Children Award.

In selecting this title, the committee members stated Elijah of Buxton is a “story of real strength.” The protagonist Elijah, who is the first free-born black child in Buxton, Ontario in 1859, is “a wonderfully developed sensitive soul with an engaging sense of life.” Christopher Paul Curtis writes of Elijah’s upbringing so expressively that “his innocence and sense of fairness and freedom justify his actions, setting up the ‘most beautifullest, most perfectest’ story Curtis could have written”. Christopher Paul Curtis “eloquently portrays the underpinnings of brotherhood through a landscape of heartache, tragedy, but in the end, loving devotion and convictions.”

Recognition is also extended to this year’s honour title, The Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock (Tundra Books).

The award will be presented at this year’s Book Awards reception, on May 22, 2008, in Vancouver, British Columbia, during the CLA/ACB 2008 National Conference & Trade Show.

The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is Canada’s largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.

Media Contact: Jasmine Loewen, Canmore Public Library.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Evidence-Based Practice and School Libraries

School Library Journal, 4/18/2008 5:20:00 AM

If school librarians can’t prove they make a difference, they may cease to exist. In our April feature article, Ross Todd, director of Rutgers University’s Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL), makes the case for employing research-based evidence to establish best practices in media centers and help advance schoolwide goals for learning and achievement.

To learn more, read "The Evidence-Based Manifesto for School Librarians."

AZ School District Votes to Keep Librarians

By Joan Oleck -- School Library Journal, 4/17/2008 9:31:00 AM

Bowing to public opinion, Arizona’s
Tucson Unified School District board on April 8 took an abrupt U-turn, voting to reverse its decision to force elementary schools to choose between axing librarians or counselors to save money.

The late-February decision, which essentially pitted librarians and counselors against each other in a battle to save their jobs, would have saved Tucson's largest school district an estimated $1.55 million next year. But the decision was a deeply unpopular one with local community members.

"When it comes down to the school [site], it's becoming a popularity contest," board member Adelita Grijalva explained to the Tucson Citizen. Grijalva’s decision to vote both times in favor of librarians may reflect her roots: She's the daughter of U.S. Rep.
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), one of the congressional sponsors of theSKILLs Act, which would mandate a certified librarian for every school nationwide.

The original February vote forced elementary schools to decide whether to keep their librarians or counselors, based on a formula of one full-time librarian per school for every 450 or more students.

Sally Lefko, a librarian for four years at Roskruge Bilingual, a K-9 school in Tucson, describes the dismay that followed. "If your school had [a half-time librarian], you had to choose: either a half-time librarian or half-time counselor. It was like kicking someone 'off the island. But it wasn't like a stranger on a TV show; these were your colleagues, people you ate lunch with and saw every day."

Ten schools voted in favor of counselors over librarians, says Lefko, a part-time librarian at an elementary and middle school. She was retained by the middle school, but voted out by the elementary faculty, which chose to keep their counselor. "I think they figured I was going to be there half time for the middle school so I would probably [still] serve them."

Oddly enough, Lefko says, the school board didn't realize that librarians and counselors remained on the payroll even though their positions were eliminated and that the only way to save dollars was by attrition. The practical result was that those dismissed from a school were given DITs or district-initiated transfers. Lefko herself opted to stay part-time at her middle school because she suspected the new policy wouldn't last.

She was right. Ann-Eve Pedersen and her Tucson Unified School Supporters mobilized, and about 50 protestors showed up at the school board building before the April 8 meeting. Lefko, who dressed for the occasion as a grim reaper—her costume adorned with the letters TUSS—read her public letter to the board condemning their action to pit “us against each other” and reduce “the morale in the entire school district."

In the end, the board voted to reinstate the district's previous counselor/librarian staffing plan but to increase the formula to 600 kids per school minimum per full-time (versus part-time) librarian. The result, says Lefko, is that "There is no library without a librarian, at least part-time."

Battle of the Books opens a page to self-esteem

Kamloops This Week: 2008 April 20
Christopher Foulds

Their faces were frozen, their cheeks round balls, their eyes alight and the edges of their mouths stretched to offer the world a permanent grin.

Giggling, they unzipped their coats to show off their school jerseys, then grabbed each other’s hand as they skipped to the car, babbling to each other in near-incoherent chatter.

They were nervous — and why not?

This was their Super Bowl, their Grey Cup, their Stanley Cup, their Olympics all wrapped into one event.

The two Grade 3 girls — my daughter and her teammate, Allison — were a combined giggling mess as we set off from Aberdeen elementary, en route to Valleyview’s Marion Schilling for the regional Battle of the Books competition.

“I’m sooooooooo nervous,” confessed Allison (“Allie” to her friends) to which my daughter, who was the spitting image of Guy Smiley, could only nod.

Then Allie’s countenance took on a serious appearance and a slight frown emerged.

“I hope nobody throws up,” she offered.

“People throw up when they get nervous. If someone throws up, we’d have to stand next to throw-up.”

Silence for a few moments as expectoration became the most relevant topic to be considered.

The girls were part of the Grade 3/4 Aberdeen team at the Battle of the Books, a district-wide contest in which schools compete against one another, with knowledge of books read being the game ball.

And they had to read a lot.

Because of Winn-Dixie, Bobby Baseball, Frindle, Harriet’s Hare, Invisible Harry, James and the Giant Peach, Lafcadio, Lisa: Overland to Cariboo, Leaving the Log House, My Robot Buddy, Seven Treasure Hunts and War With Grampa were the tomes in play, and the seven schools at Marion Schilling on this day were peppered with scenarios, familiar and vague, they had to match to the correct story.

“I can’t feel my legs,” whispered Aaron, another Aberdeen book battler, during a break.

“This is soooo scary,” added my daughter.

Weeks earlier, when she made the team, she was over the moon with excitement, but she attempted to downplay the accomplishment.

“It’s not like we’re like the basketball team or anything,” she said over dinner.

“We’re not representing the school.”

Oh, yes you are, I insisted, though that reality didn’t hit her until the big day, when the squad left the school proudly decked out in Aberdeen Highlander jerseys.

The Battle of the Books was brought to the Kamloops-Thompson school district in 1988 by Faith Bailey, a teacher-librarian who remains today the competition’s chairwoman.

Bailey read about the event in a teacher-librarian journal and worked to get it started here.

The intent is to get kids interested in reading, obviously, but there’s more to it than that

“We also get them to read books they would not normally pick up,” she says. “We get them out of their comfort zone.”

The Battle of the Books is now 20 years old and some things are constant — girls enter more often than boys and the winning teams tend to be the squads whose members read each of the 12 books six or seven times.

And some things have changed.

For example, only in the past few years has the Battle of the Books received district funding, which has vaulted the cerebral competition into being recognized as an official school-district program.

On that day at Marion Schilling, the Grade 3/4 kids from McGowan Park elementary were on their game, winning the regional event.

They advanced to this past week’s district championships at the Henry Grue Education Centre and won it all.

My daughter’s team finished fourth and were understandably ecstatic.

The smiles they wore en route to the battle were still plastered on their faces as they left the event.

It’s about reading, true; it’s also about instilling self-esteem, as was evident when my daughter returned to Aberdeen to find a card of congratulations signed by her entire class.

It is a big deal, despite the nonchalant attitude of the kids.

“I coach a team, too,” Bailey says. “Only mine isn’t basketball.”

The Battle of the Books can be accessed online at

Monday, April 14, 2008


Government of BC: 2008 April 14

VANCOUVER – The first-ever Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy Forum is underway for the next two days at sites across the country, including Vancouver, Education Minister Shirley Bond and Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell announced today.

“Approximately nine million Canadians struggle with low literacy levels, including more than one million right here in British Columbia,” said Bond. “We are making gains, but need to do more, and work with all our partners, which is why B.C. is proud to serve the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada as the lead province for literacy and for this pan-Canadian conversation.”

This first-of-its-kind forum is using leading-edge, B.C.-proven webcasting technology, including real-time streaming video, to connect 3,500 learners, literacy experts and representatives from the education, non-profit, business and labour sectors. The technology will also be used to leave a legacy of resources online, benefiting educators, learners, literacy providers, and all Canadians for years to come.

“As we continue to invest in improving literacy levels, more people are able to fulfil their potential, families become stronger, and communities prosper,” said Coell. “This forum offers communities across Canada an unprecedented chance to work together to find new ways to open doors for those who need help in overcoming literacy barriers.”

Each site has its own theme, and these, taken together, tell a pan-Canadian story, speaking to the overall theme of the forum, which is “Literacy: more than words.” The individual site themes cover everything from Aboriginal to workplace literacy:

  • Arviat, Nunavut – Literacy: The Path to Success
  • Edmonton, Alberta – Literacy: Never Too Early, Never Too Late
  • Montreal, Quebec – Vision, Innovation, Participation
  • Regina, Saskatchewan – Aboriginal Literacy: Stories of Success
  • Saint John, New Brunswick – Literacy: Passport to Prosperity
  • Toronto, Ontario – Literacy for Life
  • Vancouver, British Columbia – Communities Working Together for Literacy
  • Whitehorse, Yukon – Building Literacy Communities through Technologies
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba – Literacy Works! Building a Skilled and Resilient Workforce

The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible for elementary-secondary and post-secondary education from the provinces and territories and is a venue to share information, resources and strategies on common education-related issues.

This forum is the first step in implementing CMEC’s new literacy action plan, which aims to raise awareness and increase literacy rates from coast to coast to coast. The action plan includes sharing literacy policies among the provincial and territorial governments, creating networks of organizations and individuals to gather and share teaching resources for learners of all ages, and encouraging additional literacy research, statistic sharing, and the effective use of data.

Any national and regional co-operative efforts resulting from CMEC’s forum and literacy action plan will complement work already underway in individual provinces and territories. British Columbia’s number one goal is to be the best-educated, most literature jurisdiction on the continent. To reach this goal, the Province has introduced ReadNow BC, a comprehensive literacy action plan to co-ordinate community literacy planning and increase literacy levels for early learners, school-age children, adults and Aboriginal people. Since 2001, the Province has invested more than $136 million in new literacy programs and services.

For more information, visit


The following keynote speakers will address the full pan-Canadian audience through interactive, webcasting technology, including real-time streaming video:

Susan Aglukark

Juno-award-winning singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark blends the Inuktitut and English languages with contemporary pop music arrangements to tell the stories of her people, the Inuit of Arctic Canada. She received the Officer of the Order of Canada award for her contribution both musically and as a workshop facilitator and mentor in the Aboriginal community.

David Asper

David Asper is a philanthropist, lawyer, chair of the National Post newspaper, and executive vice-president of CanWest Global Communications Corp. He oversees CanWest’s corporate communications, including its philanthropy programs.

Linwood Barclay

A political satirist, Linwood Barclay draws on his extensive journalism experience to convey his uniquely witty and insightful take on the world. He writes a popular column in the Toronto Star and is an acclaimed memoirist and novelist.

Dr. Paul Bélanger

Dr. Paul Bélanger is a professor in the Education Faculty at the Université du Québec à Montréal. He is director of the Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Lifelong Learning, president of the International Council for Adult Education, and life member of the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) in Great Britain.

Adrienne Clarkson

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the 26th Governor General of Canada, has been an award-winning journalist, publisher, and public servant. She holds more than 20 honorary degrees, wrote a bestselling autobiography, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Charles Coffey

Charles Coffey is the former executive vice-president, government affairs and business development for RBC Financial Group who also headed business banking in Canada and led three regional headquarters. An Officer of the Order of Canada, he makes community leadership a priority, especially when that work helps young people, entrepreneurs and Aboriginal peoples.

Frank McKenna

Frank McKenna, former Premier of New Brunswick, is the deputy chair of TD Bank Financial Group (TDBFG). He is responsible for supporting the bank in its customer acquisition strategy, and is representing TDBFG as it works to expand its North American presence.

Dr. J. Fraser Mustard

Dr. J. Fraser Mustard has had a diverse career in the health sciences, medical research, and the private sector. He has been a leader in Canada on the socioeconomic determinants of human development and health and puts a particular emphasis on early child development and the role of communities.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Provinces, territories unite to tackle low literacy

Telegraph-Journal - Saint John, New Brunswick: 2008 April 12
Kelly Lamrock and Shirley Bond Commentary

Canada's Education Ministers have come together to take a collective stand and provide leadership on literacy, and that begins with being forthright about the issue: millions of adult Canadians struggle with low literacy levels. People with literacy challenges live in every community in Canada. In fact, many Canadians have trouble with everyday reading and writing tasks such as reading a prescription or understanding a bus schedule.

For those of us confident in our abilities, it can be difficult to imagine the far-reaching effects of low literacy levels, but know this: literacy is a significant factor that determines how we live.

People with low literacy levels have trouble filling out job applications, and are twice as likely to be unemployed. Literacy skills empower individuals to earn a living wage and pursue their dreams.

People with low literacy levels have trouble understanding the instructions on a prescription bottle. Literacy skills provide people with the information to maintain or improve their health.

And people with low literacy levels may lack the confidence to read to their children and later help them succeed in school. Literacy skills enrich families, helping them flourish.

These factors affect individuals and families and influence the health, strength and prosperity of our communities, our provinces and territories, and our country.

That's why Canada's Education Ministers have created a literacy action plan to raise awareness about the importance of improved literacy levels, and to improve literacy skills from coast to coast to coast. This literacy action plan stresses sharing successful literacy policies, research, statistics and data, and teaching resources for learners of all ages.

To start, Canada's provinces and territories have planned a first-of-its-kind event: the Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy Forum, to be held April 14-15. The forum will use webcasting to broadcast real time streaming video and connect 3,500 learners, literacy experts and representatives from the education, non-profit, business and labour sectors at sites around the country, including Vancouver, Whitehorse, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Arviat, and an Atlantic site in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Because literacy is so far-reaching, each site will champion an individual theme that contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the literacy challenges and opportunities that exist across the country. These themes include Aboriginal literacy, communities, early learning, prosperity, technology, and workplace literacy.

Through leading edge B.C.-proven interactive communications technology, each site has an opportunity to both share its expertise and learn from the other sites as participants from across Canada engage in a single pan-Canadian conversation. To further this, exciting keynote speakers will inspire all participants to unite and address challenges, champion successes, and explore strategies. These keynote speakers are world-class literacy and education experts, business and media leaders, and celebrated entertainers, including Susan Aglukark, David Asper, Linwood Barclay, Dr. Paul Bélanger, Adrienne Clarkson, Charles Coffey, Frank McKenna, and Dr. J. Fraser Mustard.

The main objective of the Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy Forum is to lead to innovative ideas sparked by the wealth of voices connected. The forum and the larger literacy action plan are poised to directly improve the lives of millions of Canadians.

We all benefit from stronger, more prosperous communities. The question is, are you part of this important conversation and efforts to increase literacy? You don't have to attend the forum to participate or help raise literacy rates. In fact, the technology used to facilitate the forum will also be used to leave a legacy of resources online, benefiting educators, learners, literacy providers, and all Canadians for years to come. Visit to learn more, and then get involved in improving literacy in your community.

Kelly Lamrock is Minister of Education for New Brunswick and Chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). Shirley Bond is Minister of Education for British Columbia, which is serving CMEC as the lead province for literacy

Friday, April 11, 2008

Shift Happens

This information video will blow your mind We are living in a unique time...

Building community literacy from the ground up

Vancouver Sun: 2008 April 11


Imagine reaching the age of 60 without knowing how to read. Suddenly, your husband loses his sight and you’re the only one around to work out the labels on his prescription bottles, along with the bills and bank statements which he always took care of.

When Connie DeMelo found herself in this situation, she turned to the staff at her local library in Castlegar. From knowing only how to write her name, DeMelo now writes poetry, uses a computer and, making up for the time she could not read to her own children, reads to her grandchildren as often as possible.

One million adults in British Columbia do not have the literacy skills they need to fully participate and succeed in today’s world. While some can barely read or write, a great many others do have some literacy skills, but not at the levels required for creating opportunity and sustaining a prosperous, inclusive province.

When B.C. focused on addressing this urgent issue — and the government set the goal of making B.C. the most literate jurisdiction in North America — it was recognized that improvements in literacy skills don’t just happen through individual effort. Communities also play a vital role.

Research tells us that the conditions for learning that prevail in our communities are enormously influential on individual success. From Internet access to recreation facilities, from neighbourhood organizations that people can participate in to workplaces that provide training, the strength of community supports matters to the lifelong development of essential skills.

Armed with this insight, and with financial assistance and planning support from 2010 Legacies Now, more than 225 communities now have grassroots planning tables to find out what local people need, identify existing assets and gaps, and develop plans to benefit the whole community, from infants to seniors. These tables bring together a surprising variety of partners with a stake in improving literacy — not just the schools and colleges, but also the RCMP and justice system, health providers, businesses, food banks, cultural centres and many others, including libraries like the one that was so important for Connie DeMelo.

Next week, the Council of Ministers of Education is holding a nationwide forum to raise awareness of the literacy challenge. Each of nine host cities across the country will lead on a different theme. Appropriately, B.C.’s is “communities working together for literacy.”

Sharing the promise of our community-based approach with the rest of Canada is a wonderful validation of the energy and commitment that is mobilizing for literacy in communities province-wide. Learning happens in all kinds of situations and throughout life, and learners need a diverse range of services that respond to individual circumstances. Community-based learning is flexible and responsive. Supporting communities to continuously review what is available and what can be improved in a variety of contexts is powerful and effective.

The community-based approach allows input from the ground up, tailoring learning opportunities to help people participate in local community life. The community infrastructure provides a variety of doors to learning, so that people can get the skills they need in ways that work for them. From adult literacy work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to workplace literacy training in Fort St. John’s booming energy sector, community literacy development is empowering people to take control.

The literacy infrastructure emerging in B.C. encompasses provincial, regional, district and community coordination, as well as professional development and related capacity from Literacy BC. But rather than the conventional “top-down” pyramid of responsibility, the community perspective encourages us to see community literacy leaders at the top, responding directly to learners and drawing upon a robust network of support.

Connie DeMelo was one of hundreds of literacy learners, practitioners and community partners interviewed in the run-up to the CMEC conference. Stories of inspiration and success abound — from the 12-year-old Invermere boy discovering a latent love of reading through one-to-one tutoring, to the homeless Vernon man in his 60s working with computers for the first time, to the Chilliwack parents participating in adult education while their children take pre-school in the room next door.

The community is where learning happens. B.C.’s communities are getting it right — giving real meaning to our understanding that literacy is everyone’s responsibility.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

BC Book Prizes on Tour

presented by Rio Tinto Alcan
A BC 150 Event

From April 13-25 —including BC Book & Magazine Week—a selection of shortlisted authors will hit the road On Tour, with FREE readings at bookstores, libraries and schools throughout BC, including northern BC, the Okanagan and the Lower Mainland. A few more will be part of our first-ever reading series in The Kootenays, thanks to funding by BC 150.

Join us On Tour: Follow the On Tour Blog

Web is the medium for cross-Canada

Vancouver Sun: 2008 April 10

Webcasting technology will unite education experts, business leaders and government members this weekend for a literacy event that’s being described as the first of its kind in Canada.

The Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy Forum is expected to attract 3,500 participants to sites across the country to address the challenges facing a country where millions of adults struggle to read and write.

“Webcasting technology, including real-time streaming video, will connect sites from coast to coast to coast in interactive conversation,” the B.C. Education Ministry says in a release.

Sites include Vancouver, Whitehorse, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Arviat (Nunavut), and Saint John, N.B.

Each site will take part in the crossCanada conversation, from Sunday to Tuesday, while also exploring individual topics such as aboriginal literacy, community literacy, early learning and the business implications of literacy.

Keynote speakers include literacy and education experts, business and media leaders, and entertainers, including Susan Aglukark, David Asper, Linwood Barclay, Paul Belanger, Adrienne Clarkson, Charles Coffey, Frank McKenna and Fraser Mustard.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Office of the Premier: 2008 April 9

VICTORIA – British Columbia is calling for nominations for the Council of the Federation Literacy Award, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today. The award honours a person or group in each of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories whose accomplishments have shaped the landscape of literacy.

“The gift of literacy has the power to change people’s lives and transform the world,” said Campbell. “It’s important to stand up and applaud the hard work and dedication of those who pass on that gift, helping make British Columbia become the most literate jurisdiction in North America.”

This is the fourth year for the award, which was created by Canada’s premiers on the initiative of Premier Campbell. The nominations are open to a deserving person or group from all areas of literacy, including early childhood, family, Aboriginal, health, workplace and community literacy. The nomination deadline for the B.C. award is May 16.

“There are dozens of organizations and individuals across B.C. who work to strengthen this province through their literacy work,” said Education Minister Shirley Bond. “I encourage people to nominate individuals or groups in their communities that are making a difference in the field of literacy.”

To be eligible, nominees must have lived in the province for at least two years and be a current or former student, literacy volunteer, practitioner, teacher, administrator, researcher, business or organization.

Winners will be named at the Council of the Federation meeting in Quebec City on July 16-18, 2008. Premier Campbell will present a Council of the Federation medallion to the B.C. recipient at a ceremony in the fall.

“Good literacy skills lay the foundation for a bright future,” said Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell. “It’s important to honour the hard work individuals and groups do to help others achieve higher literacy levels.” The Council of the Federation was established in 2003 to acknowledge the leadership role provinces and territories play in Canada’s federation.

The Council of the Federation Literacy Award was created in 2004, with the first award presented in 2005. The Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy was British Columbia’s first medallion winner and writer and publisher Joan Acosta won last year.

Since 2001, the Province has invested more than $136 million in new literacy funding in support of the government’s goal to make B.C. the most literate jurisdiction in North America. Funding for new literacy initiatives includes pre-literacy and early learning programs, such as $9.5 million to operate the kindergarten readiness program Ready, Set, Learn and $2.7 million for the ActNow Literacy Education Activity and Play (LEAP BC) program, which encourages literacy, physical activity and healthy eating in preschool-aged children. The government is also committed to having 400 StrongStart BC early learning centres operating by 2010.

More information can be found at, along with the nomination form. Call 250 387-1052 with any questions not answered on the website.


In July 2004, Canada’s premiers decided to create a special annual award to recognize achievements in literacy across the country. The Council of the Federation (COF) Literacy Award acknowledges outstanding achievement, innovative practice and excellence in literacy. The award covers the entire spectrum of the field, including early childhood, family, Aboriginal, health, workplace and community literacy.

Thirteen COF Literacy Medallions are awarded annually, one for each province and territory. The COF Literacy Award for British Columbia is intended to recognize the exceptional achievement of an individual, group or project that has made a significant contribution to the field of literacy in the province.

The deadline for nominations for the 2008 COF Literacy Award in British Columbia is May 16, 2008.

In order to be eligible for the COF Literacy Award (BC), the nominee(s) must:

  • Have resided in the province of British Columbia for at least two years.
  • Consent to their nomination.

Eligible nominees may be:

  • Literacy educators or researchers involved with any public, private or non-profit program, group or organization.
  • Public, private or non-profit programs, groups or organizations involved with literacy delivery, research or advocacy.
  • Literacy learners currently involved with a program.
  • Volunteers currently engaged in literacy work.
  • Businesses or corporations with a history or supporting literacy in the community or that operate a workplace literacy program.

Please note:

  • Page 1 of the nomination form must be completed when nominating a literacy organization or individual and Page 2 must be completed when nominating a learner.
  • Additional pages may be used to accommodate your information.
  • Documentation may include the following and more: newspaper articles about the nominee; journal articles or other publications by the nominee; letters of support; photographs; examples of resource material developed; copies of awards; and portfolios of work.

For more information, please contact:
Council of the Federation Literacy Award – British Columbia at

Nomination Submission Instructions

Please mail to:
Council of the Federation Literacy Award
BC Nominations c/o Literacy Branch Ministry of Education
P.O. Box 9161, Stn Prov Govt Victoria, B.C. V8W 9H1
Telephone: 250 387-7097

Courier nominations to:
Council of the Federation Literacy Award
BC Nominations c/o Literacy Branch Ministry of Education
3rd Floor, 620 Superior Street
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9H1

Please note: Employees of the government of British Columbia and individual members of the selection committee and their families are not eligible for the COF Literacy Award (BC).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Teacher-Librarian As Literacy Leader

Posted on: Thursday, 3 April 2008, 03:00 CDT
By Braxton, Barbara

THERE WERE TWO PICTURES-ONE THAT WOULD MAKE A PRINCIPAL SHOUT WITH DELIGHT AND ONE THAT WOULD MAKE A TEACHER-LIBRARIAN WEEP WITH FRUSTRATION. The first was that of a large group of students, predominantly sixth-grade boys, waiting impatiently for the library to open at lunchtime to go in and continue reading the Deltora Quest series (a series of extremely popular books by Australian author Emily Rodda) so that they could earn the next gem for their belt in the challenge. The second was that of a group of sixth-grade students squirming and squiggling in their seats as they struggled to understand the nuances of To Kill a Mockingbird, being read aloud by their teacher, even though the teacher had already said, "Most kids would have missed the relevance of the trial, anyway."

If we look behind the canvas to find out what was really the difference between the two pictures, it soon becomes clear-the first has the input of an experienced, qualified teacher-librarian; the other does not...

Libraries to open doors Tuesday

Staff scramble to stack shelves after labour dispute

Times Colonist: 2008 April 2

All Greater Victoria Public Library return chutes will be open tomorrow, and its nine branches will open Tuesday, putting an end to a bitter labour dispute that has closed the GVPL library system since February.

The labour association, which negotiates on behalf of the library, approved an agreement yesterday that the employees had ratified earlier.

Both union and management representatives said they’re happy a compromise has been reached that allows them all to get back to work.

Some employees were back at work yesterday, working with management to figure out the best way to get the branches up and running again — and to shelve the thousands of books, DVDs and CDs that have been stuffed through the Central Library book drop. That was the only book drop open since the library locked out employees on Feb. 17.

The main entry to the branch is filled with 275 boxes of books, with another 30 book trolleys piled high.

“I’m very glad to see staff back in,” said Barry Holmes, the library’s chief executive officer. “Libraries have books and all sorts of material, but really, they’re about people. It’s not the same if you don’t have people.”

Most basic services, such as checking out and returning materials, information questions, access to the Internet and the library website, will be available on Tuesday. Additional services and programs will be phased in over the next few weeks.

No late fees will be charged for the time of the lockout, Feb. 17 to April 8. There will also be a two-week grace period until April 20 for the return of previously borrowed materials.

Holds that were to be picked up at the beginning of the lockout have been extended. For specific information on holds and other specialty services, visit the library website at

The key issue in the labour dispute was pay equity. Library workers took a strike vote in the fall, and held several days of job action before the Feb. 17 lockout.

CUPE Local 410 said they had not been given pay equity with the City of Victoria, as they said a 1992 contract promised. The library said that was not what the contract meant, and that the workers already had pay equity.

In the end, both sides compromised, leading to mediation that broke the 45-day deadlock.

The union agreed to pay equity compared to municipal wages at the municipalities of Oak Bay and Esquimalt, rather than Victoria, which is the highest paid municipality, said CUPE Local 410 spokesman Ed Seedhouse.

“We wanted to be compared with a group that had pay equity wrapped up,” he said. “It didn’t have to be with the highest paid municipal workers in the region.”

The pay increases vary, depending on individual positions. Everyone will see some pay increase, Seedhouse said, with the largest increases for those at the very bottom and very top of the pay scale.

The contract runs through Dec. 31, 2010. At that point, the union will agree that pay equity has been achieved.

Another key issue in the dispute was “wages for pages,” the people who shelve books, who were classified as auxiliary workers. In the new agreement, nine full-time senior page positions will be created. They’ll start at $17.80 an hour. Other pages will remain auxiliary positions, and will also receive a pay increase.

Prior to the lockout, auxiliary pages were paid $11.03 an hour. When they return to work under the new agreement, they’ll start at $12.13 an hour, Seedhouse said.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Evidence-Based Manifesto for School Librarians

If school librarians can’t prove they make a difference, they may cease to exist

By Ross Todd -- School Library Journal, 4/1/2008

Every fall, School Library Journal hosts a national Leadership Summit that brings together a mix of school librarians, administrators, other educators, researchers, and university professors, as well as policy makers and elected officials. While the topics change, the Summit always focuses on an issue of critical importance to school librarians. Our goal? To jump-start the conversation and create a ripple effect throughout the profession...