Calgary Reads brings together people, schools, community partners and business to make reading a priority. We have grown from offering one tutor program to now having over 18 programs and initiatives that work in schools and communities to support children and their families.
Calgary Reads and the Alberta Reads Network are featuring the favourite books of our special friends and personalities in Alberta through an engaging podcast series.
By sharing books that are truly meaningful to them – those that have had an impact on their life or work – we hope to stimulate great conversations, spread the joy of reading and encourage fellow Albertans to explore new books too!
Episode 1 – Steacy Collyer, CEO Calgary Reads
Episode Summary – In this kick-off episode, Steacy discusses some of her memories of reading, the important books that have helped shape her, and the importance of book access for kids and families.
0:30 – What the heck is a Shelfie?
2:00 – What prompted the Shelfie project?
3:20 – What the listener can expect from our guests
Our team of staff members celebrated the beginning of summer with an afternoon of fun in the sun. We headed over to Reworks where we rented our two-wheeled transportation for the day. We met our lovely tour guide and set off to explore the city.
Our first stop was Reader Rock Garden. We hopped off our bikes and explored one of Calgary’s most unique cultural landscapes with rock pathways, bridge, benches and beautiful flowers. This historic garden is a tribute to one man’s passion for plants and beauty. William Roland Reader was the Superintendent for Calgary Parks from 1913 – 1942 who transformed a bare hillside into an internationally-acclaimed garden.
Next, we pedalled our way over to Sidewalk Citizen Bakery to pick up our bagged lunch of sandwiches, salads and a homemade cookie! With our lunches in tow, we made our way to St. Patrick Island where we chowed down. But a Calgary Reads outing wouldn’t be complete without a Book Drop, and the island with its hordes of students on field trips was the perfect location.
What’s a Book Drop?
A Book Drop is a fun activity where we simply leave books around the city. Each book has a sticker inviting the person who discovers it to take it home. It’s a free book for someone to find and enjoy!
After lunch, we toured through Prince’s Island and made our way back to Reworks to drop off our bikes.
We finished off the day at the Children’s Reading Place in Inglewood. Our fantastic Readers in Residence, Christine and Terry, treated us to ice cream and a play. Christine shared the story of Mrs Armitage, a character from her childhood and a series she shared with her kids. And of course, Terry was brave enough to take on the role of Mrs Armitage.
In this delightful tale, Mrs Armitage On Wheels by Quentin Blake, Mrs Armitage sets off for a quiet cycle with her faithful dog, Breakspear, but she just can’t help thinking of ways to improve her bicycle. Before very long she has added three very loud horns, a bucket of water to wash her hands, a complete tool kit. And by the time she has also added a seat for Breakspear, two umbrellas, a cassette player and a mouth-organ, Mrs Armitage is riding a very eye-catching contraption. But it is when she finally adds the mast and sail, that Mrs Armitage really runs into trouble. . .
It was a wonderful celebration of another successful school year and celebrate the start of summer.
From all of us at Calgary Reads,
Have a wonderful summer!
Given the recent events in the US we wanted to send a note to our community and acknowledge the importance of defending the ethical treatment of children in our society. The US ‘zero tolerance’ policy, which was changed yesterday, reminds us that our human rights are indeed fragile as they depend on individual and collective judgments about how – and if – those rights are maintained.
We encourage all of you to reflect on your own work today and honour the parents, caregivers and children you work with by acknowledging their basic human dignity. It is especially poignant today, our National Indigenous Peoples Day, as we face the reality that in our country 60% of First Nation children on reserve live in poverty and for over 100 years, Indigenous children were removed from their families and put in residential schools. We are not immune to ignorance and error.
In light of our history, we reflect on the following statement from Justice Murray Sinclair: “Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts.” As a starting point on that journey we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
We all have a role to play supporting parents and children, and continuously striving for a society that gets better every day at supporting healthy development of all people, within healthy communities, in a healthy natural environment.
Social change is never done, it is a journey of continuous striving for ever-increasing standards of ethical capacity within ourselves, our organizations, institutions and society as a whole. It is a multi-generational journey, and we are all responsible for its trajectory.
The book’s protagonist, Sam Gribley, age 15, leaves his parents cramped, New York apartment to live out of a hollowed-out hemlock tree on his Great-Grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains. He learns to survive in the wilds, trains a peregrine falcon named Frightful, befriends a weasel called Baron and a mischievous raccoon named Jessie C. James.
A “nature boy” at heart, this book captured my imagination and inspired many of my waking and sleeping dreams! I bought an injured screech owl for a wooden nickel from a prospector and nursed it back to health, filled a household aquarium with pond-water and hatched a batch of mosquitoes that ravaged my family members, raised gerbils, kittens, dogs, garter snakes, and even a queen bee. Although I never did manage to inhabit a tree trunk, I lived out of tents, lean-to shelters, snow caves and a VW “hippy” van!
What got me thinking of My Side of the Mountain was our recent move into the Children’s Reading Place as “Readers in Residence”. Tucked into the upper floor dormer of this beautiful character house, listening to the cacophony of migratory seagulls, looking out across the treetops to the river, and lying on my back watching the clouds scudding across the skylight, has been a magical experience; not unlike a hollowed-out tree for playful grownups!
Imagine, a house full of books where children and families arrive with great anticipation and cry out in joyful delight to discover a whale in the bathtub, a private reading nook in the wall, a living room transformed into the Secret Garden, and a hallway Where the Wild Things Are! Sometimes I lie awake at night and imagine the books surrounding us coming to life; characters stepping out of the pages for a “wild rumpus”! Max and the Wild Things thundering down the stairs. Rosie Revere Engineer hammering away in the Maker’s Space, building a fireproof castle for the Paper Bag Princess and Captain Underpants swinging on the porch protecting the house from intruders.
Image courtesy of Shannon Yau Photography
Where would we be without our imagination? It has been inspiring to witness firsthand the magic of the Children’s Reading Place as it transforms children and their families. After the initial excitement and race to discover special books and reading spaces, families settle into the Sunflower Room to quietly read or wide-eyed children grab a parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt’s hand and lead them urgently to some secret reading nook.
I watched as a young girl tenaciously clung to a book and took it everywhere in the house with her…like a prized teddy-bear or Linus’s blanket. Hearing that she could leave the house with a free book, she was determined to keep this book nearby! Another child sheepishly asked me if she could come back to the Children’s Reading Place again. When I told her “Of course!”, she raced around the corner and enthusiastically announced to her family that they could return!
Christine and I feel very blessed to have been introduced to the pleasure of reading as small children. It is now such a gift to be given the opportunity to live in a magical book house and to work alongside dedicated staff and volunteers to help foster children and families’ love of reading.
Like many cultures, Indigenous people use storytelling as a way to share customs, history and heritage. As they explored their land, storytelling became an important tool. It was used to pass down traditions, such as local customs, how to live off the land, and how to survive in the natural environment in which they lived. We are working to weave more Indigenous culture into our work, including the collection of books at the Children’s Reading Place.
Here are a few books that we love by Indigenous children’s authors from across Canada.
The links below are affiliate links. This means that a special tracking code is used and that we may make a small commission on the sale of an item if you purchase through one of these links. The price of the item is the same for you whether it is an affiliate link or not, and all the funds raised from these links goes towards supporting our programs.
Richard Van Camp, internationally renowned storyteller and bestselling author of the hugely successful Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, has partnered with talented illustrator Julie Flett to create a tender board book for babies and toddlers that honors the child in everyone. With its delightful contemporary illustrations, Little You is perfect to be shared, read or sung to all the little people in your life—and the new little ones on the way!
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.
When We Were Alone won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award in the Young People’s Literature (Illustrated Books) category, and was nominated for the TD Canadian’s Children’s Literature Award.
The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.
This vibrant picture book, beautifully illustrated by celebrated artist Danielle Daniel, encourages children to show love and support for each other and to consider each other’s well-being in their everyday actions.
Consultant, international speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote You Hold Me Up to prompt a dialogue among young people, their care providers and educators about reconciliation and the importance of the connections children make with their friends, classmates and families. This is a foundational book about building relationships, fostering empathy and encouraging respect between peers, starting with our littlest citizens.
In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book.
In a brief author’s note, Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others.
The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.
International speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote My Heart Fills with Happiness to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families, and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy.
You can find these along with other books representing Indigenous culture at the Children’s Reading Place in Inglewood, Calgary.
Research shows that children can lose two or more months of learning over the summer holidays.
Summer Reading ABC’s
These 3 simple things will help improve summer reading outcomes:
Access to books. Children need access to a wide variety of books over the summer. But access alone isn’t enough.
Books that match readers’ ability levels and interests. For their reading skills to improve, children need to read books that align with their own reading levels and interests. Reading books that are too easy or too hard won’t improve skills!
Comprehension, as monitored and guided by an adult, teacher or parent. To making summer reading effective it’s important that an adult ask questions and guide children to better understand what they are reading.
Source: James Kim, National Summer Learning Association
Make summer reading count
The greatest summer reading gains occur when three factors are present:
• children have plenty of books to choose from
• children read aloud and parents give them feedback on their reading
• parents check their children’s understanding of what they have read
REMEMBER: BOOKS BEAT THE SUMMER SLIDE
Children who are given access to books over the summer perform 35-40% better on reading achievement tests than those without access to books.
Source: First Book Canada
5 Easy Ways to Avoid the Summer Slide
1. Read a little every day. It can be a cereal box, newspaper, or comic book. Aim for at least 15 minutes of reading aloud or reading daily.
2. Let your child choose. Visit your local library and check out books that your child finds interesting and wants to read.
3. Share story time together. Choose a favourite book to read aloud, put on a puppet show or have fun making up silly stories with each other.
4. Go on an adventure. Take a stroll around your neighbourhood and explore the outdoors. What do you and your child see? What new words can they learn? Can your child find objects that contain two or three syllables?
5. Encourage your child to search for answers. When your child asks ‘why?’ see if you can work together to figure out what they need to know or do to find the answer.
From all of us at Calgary Reads, have a wonderful summer!
Guest Blogger Karen Scarlett, Artist & Calgary Reads Champion
Have you heard about Calgary Reads? If you haven’t, then today is your lucky day!
A number of years ago, I had my work set up at a farmers’ market and the Executive Director of Calgary Reads came by and purchased some of my wares. What a lucky day that was. Since then, I have been involved with a number of Calgary Reads projects and it continues to be fun and inspiring to work with them.
I have always enjoyed reading and as you can guess, Calgary Reads is all about inspiring reading and creating avid readers in our community.
I love to read books that take me on a journey without leaving my chair and I feel reading makes me more creative and it also helps with my mental health.
I can’t imagine a day without reading.
How I’ve Been Involved in Calgary Reads
Little Free Library
I have painted a number of Little Free Libraries, both for Calgary Reads and for others too. The image at the top of the newsletter is a Little Library I did a couple of years ago, you will recognise it covered in my Alberta Bouquet that I love to paint.
Calgary Reads is the hub for Little Free Libraries in Canada and actively inspires the community to engage in building and feeding them while creating community around them.
On the left, I am standing with a Little Free Library I freshly painted and founder of Little Free Libraries, Todd Bol when he visited Calgary.
On the right is a shadow of my boyfriend Doug Symington beside a pile of Little Free Libraries we built, just loaded into the truck and headed to Calgary Reads to be painted and sent out to the community.
For more on Little Free Libraries and to get free plans for building your own take a look at littlefreelibrary.org
YES, I will paint your favourite scene onto your new Little Free Library!
The Children’s Reading Place
I was thrilled to be part of transforming a cute little house in Inglewood into a magical space.
When you book your appointment to visit The Children’s Reading Place with your family or school class, you are in for a treat!
The first room I started painting was the “Canada Reads” room. A design team of students from Bow Valley College asked if I could create rolling hills in varied shades of green to feel like you were in the foothills.
The second image is a bit tough to understand. It is a picture taken while laying on my back looking up under the stairwell where there was a tiny spot for kids to read…. I loved the idea to paint on the ceiling when I saw it, but turns out, it is tough to paint in a spot where you do not fit! Yikes!
The picture on the left shows the little Forest Nap painting from its regular vantage point. On the right is a photo of the free coloring book Calgary Reads produced for Canada’s 150 celebrations.
Every child who came to the Reading Place in 2017 received one of these while supplies lasted. Yes, I was one of the 12 artists included in this book.
I drew a picture of a castle floating in the sky inspired by my Dad (He regularly told me, “Practice building castles in the sky so when you get the chance to build one on the ground, you will know how”) and inside the book, I recommend that kids should, without a doubt, read Anne of Green Gables.
My grandma Scarlett’s big sister was best of friends with Lucy Maude Montgomery when she lived with my grandma’s family in PEI.
Next area on the list to paint was the main stairwell leading to more reading rooms. I am sure you recognise my spruce trees. I love all the wonderful colours that make up the stair forest. This area was inspired by the book, Where The Wild Things Are.
Luckily, our neighbour had a pile of unwanted branches and Doug and I attached them to the walls turning the hall into a secret forest. A number of leaves were hand made with sponsors names written on each one, when you go there, see if you can find my name.
This house is absolute magic!
Every room is painted with a theme and is so inspiring to be inside . You must go!
Just recently I painted some inspiration into the Reader in Residence room there. Here are some process shots.
Some light pencil lines and the start of shaded painting begins…
Details get added…
A photo before I added titles to some spines and before furniture goes back into place.
My parents were avid readers and as a child we were read to at bed time. I had never considered that there are many children who do not get read to. It is one of many indicators of children becoming readers and becoming life long learners.
The other surprising detail I have learned from Calgary Reads is that many children NEVER own their own book. Once again, as a child, my siblings and I had book shelves FULL of books and I had never stopped to think that it wasn’t the norm. Another indicator of children becoming regular readers is if they own their own books. Each child that comes to the Reading Place gets to take a book home TO KEEP.
I hope you got a kick out of reading and seeing the wonderful experience I am having with Calgary Reads. I think they provide such an important opportunity for many kids that could fall through the cracks in our city.
We’ve written a lot about children’s screen time; how much is ‘OK’ and at what age etc. Just in case you missed past articles, Calgary Reads follows the recommendations of The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) that released new guidelines in June 2017.
The CPS says parents and caregivers should not only minimize their child’s screen time at home but use it mindfully themselves. This is on my mind today. I encourage adults to pay more attention to their own use of screens. Not only what they are modeling to their children – but, the impact of technology use on the ability to be still, dig deep, reflect and learn. Not to mention the impact of technology on the authenticity of relationships!
A few years ago, Calgary Reads invited Nicholas Carr to Calgary to speak at our Big Book Club event. In a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he had posed the question: Is Google making us stupid? And, he also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?
He spoke to us about his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. He described how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer. And he challenged us with the fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience.
Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways. The outcome can include our inability to be quiet, be still and focus. We now have a hectic (seemingly insatiable) need for small, every changing bits of information to the detriment of us diving deeply to spend time with complex information and critical thinking.
In The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness Giles Slade speaks to the loss of face-to-face exchanges and the decline of real human interactions due to our use of technology. We thought that our gadgets, screens and ever growing online communities would bring us numerous links and abundant connections, but the opposite seems true. He says sixty million Americans report that isolation and loneliness are major sources of their unhappiness.
I know personally the struggle to ‘allow’ myself to unplug and disconnect. But, as a reader, thinker and someone who values personal relationships, my hope today is that we all reduce our screen time. Instead, slow down, make time for deep reading and critical thinking, rediscover genuine face to face community and human empathy . . . and, always put down your devices to focus on your family and friends.
Reading aloud every day is the single most important thing you can do to prepare your child to learn. It’s a message I share all the time.
More brain development occurs during the first 2000 days of a child’s development, namely from conception to kindergarten, than at any other time in life. And, if a child is read to, talked to, and reasoned with, he or she is using the brain circuits needed for reading, comprehension, and reasoning. Those circuits will be strengthened and stay in place.
Now a recent study conducted by researchers Colin Macleod and Noah Forrin at the University of Waterloo and published in the journal Memory, found that reading words aloud made them easier to remember compared to reading them silently.
The study used four different conditions to isolate exactly which elements were responsible for improved memory retention. The subject group of 95 students was asked to either read silently, read aloud, listen to recordings of other people reading, or listen to a recording of themselves reading. Memory retention was strongest when reading aloud directly, suggesting that the impact came not just from hearing the words, but also speaking them.
This is because verbally pronouncing a word creates a memorable experience — a phenomenon the researchers call the ‘production effect’. The active cognitive process of encoding the word into speech also helps to encode it into long-term memory. Also, they found that students did better on retention when they heard their own voice on the recordings. It suggested that hearing one’s own voice is a distinct stimulus of self-recognition, which also helps make the content memorable.
So, please read aloud everyday with the young children in your life. And, keep reading aloud together after your child can read independently as you expose them to new vocabulary and more complex information. And, encourage your child to read aloud too as they explore new books and information.
Brain science amazes and I’m grateful for researchers who help us understand why something as simple and seemingly insignificant as reading aloud matters. Even without scientific studies I hope you’ll try reading aloud everyday for the joy it brings!
” I can read in red. I can read in blue. I can read in pickle color too.” Dr. Seus
Over the last nine months, as the first readers-in-residence we have had the opportunity to say ” I can read to you” and have little ones say ” I can read to you. too”
Every day there have been surprises. Maybe they are always there, in the Children’s Reading Place our eyes and ears were receptive to the moments. I read “Bob Not Bob” by Audrey Vernick and Garton Scanlon with illustrations by Matthew Cordell to dozens of kids, and after sharing my best nasal voice with seven-year-old Tristan, he said, ” I want to read something to you.” He thought maybe a Geronimo Stilton would be fun but after a couple of pages with me prompting on eight or ten words a page, I suggested that “maybe we should find something else”. He asked “why?” and I explained that if there were more than five words that he didn’t know per page, it might not be the best choice. He found Flat Stanley: The Origin Story by Jeff Brown and we climbed up on the bench in the Greeting Room. Tristan read the first ten pages and then looked up at me and said ” that was better, there were only a couple of words that I didn’t know on each page. ” I agreed and congratulated him on finding something interesting and fun to read to me and reminded him that he had learned twenty new words. ” Wow!” he whispered.
Spoiler Alert – When Stanley Lambchop wakes up one morning, his brother, Arthur, is yelling. A bulletin board fell on Stanley during the night, and now he is only half an inch thick! Amazing things begin happening to him. Stanley gets rolled up, mailed, and flown like a kite.
Every day there has been laughter. When the front door opens and families start arriving, a smile permanently creeps across our faces. Our smiles are reciprocated, and our silliness is copied. Kids and parents feel any uneasiness evaporate and within thirty minutes we are laughing about a line in a book, a picture that was colored or something that we said. According to the CCPA ” Laughter can be obtained through reading a humorous book; playing with children and spending time laughing with friends.
Laughter has a medicinal benefit; it can heal the mind, the body, and the soul. ” When our stress is lowered we are more receptive to the magic that reading brings into our lives.
Every day there are important conversations. The Children’s Reading Place spurs curiosity. ” How did the whale get in the tub?” “Can you recommend a good book about trains?” ” Why does the light change color?” ” Who painted the Canada Room?” ” My daughter is five, and she isn’t interested in reading. How can I help her?” “Do you have any Captain Underpants?” “Do you have any Dork Diaries?” ” Are there any Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or Nimona graphic novels?” “How much time should I spend reading with our son?” ” Are you sure that I get to pick my own book to take home?” ” He is so happy here. What can we do at home to keep him interested?”
Sometimes the answers are easy, and sometimes they lead to wide-ranging conversations. Most of the time, we have an answer, but when we don’t we say ” I’m not sure, what do you think?” Most of the time we just need to be encouraging and helpful without having all the answers.
As this chapter in our lives closes, we will remember the surprises, the laughter, and the conversations. Most of all we will remember the children; Fatima, Ibrahim, Solomon, Mariam, Frankie, Braydon, Flinn, Flynn, Cleo, Bean, Tristan, Isla, Hannah, Pria, Teya, Wyatt, Anna, Monica, Issac, Rosemarie, Joseph, and hundreds of others who mad our term as Readers in Residence richer.
With gratitude and some sadness, we are turning the page to start a new chapter. New readers-in-residence will arrive at the Children’s Reading Place to start their own adventures in reading.