“Literacy, it’s not just about words and language—it’s about relationships and friendships and comfort and culture.” – Alma Newman
The Prince Albert Literacy Network celebrated its 30th anniversary on Thursday afternoon with a panel presentation of a local tutor and writers.
Each spoke about undeniable connections they’ve found through literacy—whether between a teacher and students, a tutor and learner or yourself and an imaginary world.
Danielle Poulin is a teacher at Arthur Pechey School. She’s written several children’s books that are inspired by stories she’s heard from her First Nations father, like how he would go trapping, snaring and berry picking in northern Saskatchewan.
Her dad lost his traditional language when his mom passed away. This is why all of her books have been translated into Woodland Cree.
“We wanted to create a way for the English and the Woodland Cree to be side by side so that students who are part of that culture can find some identity in there and we’re still trying to keep that language relevant,” she said.
Growing up herself, Poulin has fond memories of her parents reading books to her before bed: “Reading and storytelling was a huge part of who we were.”
Olivia Mitchell brought a different perspective to the panel, primarily speaking about how she incorporates her own identity into characters.
Mitchell is currently a grade 12 student. She recently co-won a poetry slam hosted by the Literacy Network with her piece called Heavy Tongued.
“Writing has always been a go-to creative outlet for me. I always have a bunch of ideas going on in my head,” said Mitchell.
She got a few giggles from the crowd when she said “life can be boring,” so writing and reading allows her and her readers to escape into fantasies consisting of dragons, dungeons, vampires and werewolves.
She referenced the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, where an ordinary girl living a normal life gets trapped into the world of shadow hunters.
Alma Newman spoke about the Literacy Network’s services and the Tutor Learner Connections (TLC) program. She’s been a volunteer tutor since TLC program began in 2012.
“Literacy, it’s not just about words and language—it’s about relationships and friendships and comfort and culture,” she said.
Often, explained Newman, she’s helping learners prepare for appointments, make grocery lists and read recipes for cooking.
“I think we do make a difference in people’s lives.”
She explained that the tutoring sessions are open-ended and free of charge. You can focus on the learner’s needs for as long as you want.
Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp spoke and the celebration on behalf of the city.
“It’s groups like yours, like the Literacy Network, that really add value into our lives in the city and there are so many people in our city that desperately need the work that you do,” she said.
Last month, volunteer LaVera Schiele was announced as Saskatchewan’s 2019 recipient of the Council of the Federation Literacy Award.