“All teachers are teachers of literacy,” says Dr. Robin Bright, “and there are so many great books to help them teach not just Language Arts, but Math and Social Studies and so on.”
Bright and her colleagues in language and literacy at the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Education communicate this through Reading the Word, Reading the World, an annual, one-day literature fair attended by all PSI students. Now in its tenth year, the conference-style event features a keynote speaker and a dozen or more breakout sessions, each covering a genre or topic specific to children and young adults.
“We try to focus on every curriculum area,” says Bright. In addition to literature in all the core academic subjects, this year’s presentations included Fit Lit (literature and Physical Education), Books for Boys, Mixed Language Books, First Nations/Métis/Inuit Literature, and much more.
“There’s nothing you could teach that you wouldn’t be able to find a fabulous book for,” says Bright.
This observation has been a theme over the years. Erin George-Samuel says, “I’m a music teacher and it was never my first thought to teach music through literature. The literature Fair presents new teachers with thousands of options on how literature can be used in the classroom.”
“It made me excited about books,” adds Renee Houle. “I know now that it means the world to students if they know you’ve read or know of the same books they’re interested in.”
Sara Thomas provides a case in point. “I was introduced to graphic novels at Lit. Fair,” says the Math major. “The knowledge and insight I gained allowed me to relate to a young boy in Grade 6. Talking to him about books in this genre gave me a connecting point I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
“We’re able to pursue some of the best Canadian authors,” says Bright of the plenary speakers. In celebration of this year’s tenth anniversary, the faculty hosted Michael Kusugak, Inuit author and storyteller. “We brought him in early so we could share him with the community. He did a couple of young writers’ workshops at the Lethbridge Public Library.”
“Even though we can only host 250, we’re able to make our resources available to a much wider group,” she notes, as this year the fair’s booklists were posted on the faculty website. “If you know how to make reading exciting and motivating,” Bright says, “why would you keep it to yourself?”