Every two weeks our hosts Chris Shee and Jaimie Cudmore from Literacy Quebec explore topics around community building, lifelong learning and literacy for English-speakers in Quebec.
Just in time for Adult Learner's Week! In this episode, we spoke to learners, lunchers, and a researcher about some of the obstacles and creative solutions to gaining different types of literacy skills. We had the chance to present the podcast at Reclaim Literacy's weekly Lunch and Learn.
We discussed digital literacy and access to podcasts with Betty, Ruth and Sylvia. We also had the opportunity to chat and get advice from Jonathan and Lorenzo from CDC Vimont and the Learning Exchange in Laval. Paul Lalonde, a researcher from the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, speaks with Jaimie in Ottawa about the findings of Frontier College's National report, "Literacy and Essential Skills as a Poverty Reduction Strategy."
And we end the show with the many upcoming literacy events submitted by our member organisations. We are still looking for runners and volunteers for the charity run in Montreal on April 27th!
Click the play button below to listen now!
Want to help out with the podcast? Have a story you want to share? Contact us at email@example.com or call our office Phone: (514) 508-6805 or
Frontier College's Report https://www.frontiercollege.ca/
Social Research and Demonstration Corporation http://www.srdc.org/
RECLAIM Literacy http://www.reclaimliteracy.ca/
CDC Vimont http://swlaurier.virtuo.ca/en/Our_centres_25/0/2.html
The Learning Exchange https://tleliteracy.com/
Gaspésie Literacy Council (GLC) https://www.facebook.com/Gaspésie-Literacy-Council
Quebec City Reading Council http://www.qcrc.org/events
Literacy Unlimited https://www.facebook.com/events/590947948047730/
Every two weeks our hosts Jaimie Cudmore and Chris Shee from Literacy Quebec explore topics around community building, lifelong learning and literacy for english-speakers in Quebec. This week's theme we highlight community-based Learning through stories and art, through the Verdun Stories Project.
Chris had the chance to chat with some of the organisers and contributors to the project at the launch of their first edition on March 2, 2019, in Verdun, Montreal. Also, we share the many upcoming literacy events submitted by our member organisations. We are still looking for runners and volunteers for the charity run in Montreal on April 27th.
Listen to Episode 2 of the podcast directly here.
Want to help out with the podcast? Have a story you want to share? Contact us from our website www.literacyquebec.org
Gaspésie Literacy Council (GLC) https://www.facebook.com/Gaspésie-Literacy-Council
Quebec City Reading Council http://www.qcrc.org/events
Literacy Unlimited https://www.facebook.com/events/590947948047730/
Verdun Stories Project and Suspicious Fish https://www.facebook.com/TheSuspiciousFish/
This is Concordia. Now: Storytelling https://www.facebook.com/events/843150046030376/
Welcome to the first episode of Literacy Quebec! A podcast for english-speaking, lifelong literacy learners in Quebec. Join podcast hosts and LQ's very own Chris Shee and Jaimie Cudmore as they explore the theme of "Defining Literacy" in the first episode. Literacy is more than just knowing how to read and write - it’s about being able to interact with the world around you to your fullest potential. We will have special guests, Margo Legault - Literacy Quebec, Joy Fyckes - Reclaim Literacy, and Rev. Brian Perron - Church of Epiphany. We also will share submissions from Ruth Thomas - South Shore Reading Council, Cheryl Henry-Leggo - Gaspesie Literacy Council, Wendy Seys - Yamaska Literacy Council, and Michele Gagnon - Western Quebec Literacy Council. The episode ends with announcements of upcoming literacy events in Quebec. We are working on our sound and editing! Thanks for being a part of this journey!
Listen to the podcast directly here or on any of the following platforms:
Apple Podcasts: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/literacy-quebec-podcast/id1455010036
Google Podcasts this link
In the show we mention the following: Dawson Oral History Project, Literacy Quebec, Gaspésie Literacy Council, RECLAIM Literacy (Montreal), South Shore Reading Council, Western Quebec Literacy Council, Yamaska Literacy Council
Upcoming Events: Help raise money as a runner or volunteer for Literacy Quebec's member organisations by taking part of the Scotia Bank marathon charity fundraiser! For more information email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org and by checking out more info here.
Mark your calendars because Episode 2 is already scheduled to launch March 14th!
Recently, our network celebrated the Jan. 27 Family Literacy Day holiday with playful activities and educational workshops. As Family Literacy Day entered its 20th anniversary this year, we were happy to be supporting another year of raised awareness and family literacy time. According to ABC Life Literacy, “by reading to children and engaging in fun literacy activities, parents are actively keeping their own skills sharp while at the same time strengthening the relationship between the family which, in turn, encourages lifelong learning”. We couldn’t agree more! Here are some of the highlights from our FLD celebrations:
5202 Rue de Verdun, Verdun, Quebec
The Literacy Quebec team tabled at the Montreal Children's Hospital Family Literacy Day event on Jan. 30. LQ distributed literacy resources and fun literacy loot bags to the kids.
4322 Wellington, Verdun, Quebec
RECLAIM was busy tabling at the Montreal Children's Hospital introducing their newest project ‘children’s books read on digital devices’ , something they feel will get more storytelling to more children. They also had the opportunity to showcase their adult education programs to members of the hospital staff, who can share the info with parents of the patients.
Once again this year, Joy, RECLAIM's Executive Director and LQ's President, was up bright and early cooking up hundreds of alphabet pancakes to celebrate Family Literacy Day! This year, after serving over 70 children at Verdun Elementary Breakfast Club, she made her way over to the CCS Little Learners group to serve up yummy letters to the children and their parents.
Literacy in Action
7 Connolly Street, Lennoxville, Quebec
Gaspésie Literacy Council
28 Saint-Patrick Ave, Gaspé, Quebec
GLC marked the day at an event in New Carlisle with the organization Family Ties.
The Learning Exchange
2100 des Laurentides Vimont, Laval, Quebec
.The Learning Exchange held some Family Literacy activities within the community to promote families reading, writing, learning and web surfing together.
TLE will give away Writing Kit information cards and new Children’s Books from Scholastic. In addition, TLE will set up a table at CDC Vimont’s cafeteria to give away books donated to TLE. Check out their full list of FLD activities on their site here. Recently, they also introduced their 1000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative which has the goal of...you guessed it - encouraging your toddler to read 1000 books with you before Kindergarten! Check out more info here.
Western Quebec Literacy Council
106 Front Street, Campbell's Bay, Quebec
WQLC held a fun and entertaining event for the whole family! They invited members of the public to bring a book to exchange for another at their book swap table. Activities at the table also included: Design and make your own personalized bookmark, Create a greeting card for friend, family or upcoming holiday, Playing card games, Help write the lyrics for a song and even a sing along! The day was packed with literacy fun for the whole family.
Quebec City Reading Council
3005 rue William Stuart, Office #202, Québec City, Quebec
For Family Literacy Day, Quebec City Reading Council posted a range of free and simple activities each day to help parents with ideas on how to promote learning at home. As they say on their facebook page, taking time every day to read or do a learning activity is crucial to a child’s development, improves a child’s literacy skills and can help parents improve their skills. Plus, it’s a great way to have fun with the entire family! Check out their full posts + expert FLD tips on their facebook page here
Those are just some of the initiatives our members created for this year's Family Literacy Day. Stay tuned on all of our websites to keep updated on the events we have year-round. We are already looking forward to next January!
In the West-Island of Montreal, outrage recently broke out over the local library. As part of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Library's $24.4-million library renovation project, they decided to build a drive-thru book drop off/return slot. This would mainly serve parents who have to leave their children in idling cars while returning books or elderly citizens who must find parking in order to simply return their books.
A local councillor has opposed the idea, saying it’s “an aberration”. Christine Gosselin says, "Culture prides itself on being the fourth pillar of sustainable development, so we wonder how, in 2018, we can integrate a drive-thru return service into a library." She is afraid that a change of this nature will discourage people from entering the space. I agree, change is often uncomfortable. However, I believe that libraries are the spaces most equipped to accommodate change. In fact, they have always changed and evolved to accommodate us.
Libraries and librarians are our greatest custodians.
When we borrow books, we borrow their beauty. For a moment, the stories, the words on the page are ours. They provide us a temporary sanctuary for free and ask nothing in return except that we give the people after us the same chance - this is the art of borrowing.
When we return the books, we keep the lessons they teach us. The knowledge stays with us and the library remains as we return again and again.
When Coun. Gosselin expresses doubt about change in her local library, she underestimates the resilience of these institutions and their sheer staying power. Libraries are made to bend just like the books they contain. I mean, have you seen some of the older books in libraries? Pages are ripped and filled with writing. Margins are packed with amateur annotations and their spines are held together by what seem to be some sort of divine miracle...Yet, they remain. In 2014, Ursula LeGuin spoke to this and gave a speech about the power of writing.
Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.
In a world where hope seems at times, elusive, libraries remind us that change is always possible. In a world where systems seem inescapable, libraries remind us that change is possible. In a world that occasionally forgets about the power of imagination, libraries remind us of our possibility. In a world where trust is rare, libraries remind us that we can trust them to stay. And that’s what we keep with us even after everything is returned.
For Richard Bean, a magnifying glass is his paintbrush and sunlight is his palette. Mr. Bean is an artist in Verdun who draws in a way youâve probably never imagined. He uses sunlight to burn his drawings into wood pieces with a magnifying glass.
An average piece takes him approximately eight 7-8 hour days to create. We were lucky to watch him âburnâ one day. Sitting on a park bench, with his sunglasses on, he focuses the magnifying glass on a spot in the wood and gets the light to catch it just right. He moves the glass carefully to draw a line and line after line, he creates picture after incredible picture. Richard Bean is truly an original artist. Yet, he draws inspiration from Verdun. As he walks though the streets and looks up toward the trees, he sees the shapes and outlines of his next drawings.
Mr. Beanâs art is also inspired by his own ideas of what he would like to see around him. âWhen I draw, Iâm taking something from the back of my mind that I want to see in front of meâ. By virtue of bringing his ideas to life, we get to watch him draw the world around us. His art is a new lens we can view Verdun through.
âMr. Bean has been making art for over 50 years and doesnât intend on stopping any time soon. âWhen people ask me what kind of art I do, I just reply, âI do art - Any artââ¦just leave me a nail and Iâll scratch a drawing in the wallâ. In reality, he doesnât need much more than his magnifying glass to create something beautiful. Even the sun watches in awe and shines more brightly when heâs working.
This is an excerpt from The Verdun Stories Project set to be jointly published by Suspicious Fish and Literacy Quebec in February 2019.
As the countryside whirls past my window, I write this message to you from my seat in the train. A glance outside can only apprehend one scenic view for an instant before it slips past us on board. We move forward à l'heure and given my current transitory state, I thought I’d write you a letter for this post.
Writing letters is a way of suspending an emotion. What we may feel in the moment of letter writing can very well change and disappear once our intended reader has received it. Yet, that’s part of the charm too. While the feeling of a moment may be gone, the writing – the evidence of our emotion - remains. A letter can be a part of us that we give to a loved one. As Beethoven once famously ended one of his love letters: “Ever thine, ever mine, ever ours, Ludwig.” AND as the iconic Stevie Wonder song says: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”. I’m yours. And as you read each word of a handwritten letter, you can trace where the other person was before you. You hold each of their words in your hand. I’m yours, they say.
I recently went to New York City and visited the Morgan Library. There, I was lucky to see “The Magic of Handwriting”, an exhibit of over 140 manuscripts and autographs from the collection of Brazilian author and publisher Pedro Corrêa do Lago. Spanning nearly 900 years across six broad areas of human endeavor—art, history, literature, science, music, and entertainment— this collection feels like opening one mesmerising time capsule. As it says on the Morgan’s description of the exhibit: “Handwriting works magic: it transports us back to defining moments in history, creativity, and everyday life and connects us intimately with the people who marked the page.” And so, for a day, I was connected to the likes of Van Gogh, Einstein, Puccini, Stephen Hawking and more…See for yourself below.
The words we write have the persistence to survive us. And thus, our words have immense power. You see, the magic of handwriting is that it is infused with a sense of a captured moment – a lingering sense of the person whose hand was there not too long ago. And as our eyes travel in their inked footsteps, we are able to feel the purpose they poured over those particular pages.
As my train pulls into my station stop, I leave you with these thoughts and look forward to our continued correspondence. Until next time, dear reader.
Insights into Montreal Part 5: My Interview with Louise Penny, Book Lovers Day, and an Invitation for the Voyage
One remarkable thing about reading is that it gives us the power to travel anywhere we please. Where, in your deepest desires, do you wish to go?
Over the past months, I’ve been visiting Three Pines – that is, the setting for author Louise Penny’s 13 best-selling novels. If you wish, let’s travel there for a moment with the novel’s main character Inspector Armand Gamache.
Armand Gamache looked across to the deep green midsummer forest and the mountains that rolled into eternity. Then his eyes dropped to the village in the valley below them, as though held in the palm of an ancient hand. A stigmata in the Quebec countryside. Not a wound, but a wonder.
(Chapter 1, The Long Way Home)
In Thee Pines, there’s a Boulangerie, a Church, a Bistro and a Bookstore…
Have a seat in the Bistro:
It was a restful room. The fires at either end of the beamed bistro took the gloom out of the day. Their light gleamed off the polished wood floors, darkened by years of smoke and farmer’s feet. Sofas and large inviting armchairs sat in front of each fireplace, their fabric faded. Old chairs were grouped round dark wooden dining tables. In front on the mullioned bay windows three or four wing chairs waited for villagers nursing steaming café au lait and croissants, or scotches, or burgundy wine…
(Chapter 2, The Brutal Telling)
Saunter into the Bookstore:
The walls were lined with bookcases filled with hardcovers and paperbacks. With fiction and biography, science and science fiction. Mysteries and religion. Poetry and cookbooks. It was a room filled with thoughts and feeling and creation and desires… A black cast-iron woodstove sat in the center of the room, with a kettle simmering on top of it and an armchair on either side.
(Chapter 4, How the Light Gets In)
Can you hear the simmering kettle? I can…
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Louise Penny for Literacy Quebec. It was a wonderful experience. She is as generous in conversation as she is in her stories. I had to refrain from pinching myself the whole time. Louise Penny is a New York Times Best-Selling author whose novels have been published in 23 languages. She is also the patron for one of our members, Yamaska Literacy Council.
As the patron of YLC, she has published a novella called The Hangman which is specifically geared toward emerging readers and adult learners. It deals with adult themes and challenges at a Grade 3 writing level. This gives learners the opportunity to strengthen their reading skills without having to resort to children’s books for practice. They have the chance to join Inspector Gamache and travel to Three Pines.
A cup of coffee is always the best when paired with a good book. Virgin Hill Coffee Roasters, a local Brome Lake family-owned business, created the Gamache Blend in tribute to their favorite author. The special thing about the Gamache blend is that for every bag sold, Virgin Hill donates $1 to the Yamaska Literacy Council. To top it off, Louise Penny matches these donations to support YLC programs.
Today is World Book Lovers Day. On this day especially, I’m reminded of moments from my conversation with Louise Penny, a fellow book lover. "Books can feed the heart, feed the spirit…not just the mind", she said. As an avid reader and of course, an avid writer, Louise is passionate about literacy. The first level of literacy is functional – reading a medicine label, writing a cheque, etc…"but what about making reading a joyous experience?" Louise asked, in our conversation. Yes. Let’s aim higher for literacy and the power of reading…"You can think of reading as more than just a tool to survive the day with…Ultimately, you want people not only to survive, you want people to thrive". Books have the power to take us there - "Books have the power to take us to places we can't normally go…so how awful it is to have a huge percent of the population not invited on the voyage".
42 percent of adult Canadians have low literacy skills. Thus, many are also less able to view reading as a joyous experience or an opportunity for travel. In an ideal view of the future, through Louise Penny’s eyes, "We all need to be able to be given the ticket to at least have the choice to go anywhere in the world through what we read…or go anywhere inside ourselves for that matter...Novels and reading can take us to places inside ourselves, help us to understand ourselves, human nature, compassion for others, and what makes others tick - that's what books can do. If you can't read, it's so much harder to get to those places."
With this said, organizations such as Literacy Quebec and our 13 members continuously strive to make our services as accessible as possible for those who need them. And Louise Penny is right by our side. If you visit her website, you will find a wealth of resources for emerging readers, aspiring writers and devoted readers alike. "Persevere. Believe in yourself", she writes as one of many tips to getting published. During her Hugh McLennan lecture at McGill University this past April, she shared her morning ritual. A quotation hangs above the dining room table where she writes that says, Noli Timere, the last words of Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Noli Timere is Latin for ‘Be not afraid’.
Here’s the thing: Three Pines is a fictional town. As in, it only exists on the page and in our imagination. Louise Penny told me, "Three Pines is an interior place, it's an allegory for kindness and the fact that goodness really does exist as a place of peace and comfort. It doesn’t mean that bad things don't happen there but rather, that they are survivable through community and belonging. It represents the certainty that goodness not only exists but will triumph". Three Pines is within us. When we read, we travel to a new place, to a point B. Yet, that new place also becomes an extension of point A: ourselves. We are all invited to embark on the journey of reading and together, we can conquer any fear of flying. Step by step, we can fill the pages of our literary passports and explore new worlds between the lines. Noli Timere, dear friend.
Have you ever thought of your hero as the person who makes you coffee in the morning?
Certain underlying, elemental forces set us on our good path every day that we work, play, dream, and succeed. Some of those forces are the people we start our days with- the people who care for us enough not only to benefit from the outcome of our success but to set our days up so that we may succeed.
Every Tuesday morning, RECLAIM Literacy holds a Summer Storytime program at Norman-Dawe on Woodland or in the Church of the Epiphany on Wellington. Every Tuesday, play mats and a bin of books are laid out before the kids arrive. Stories and puppets for the day are chosen beforehand so when the kids start pouring in at 10:30, everything is already waiting for them. I visited a session for the first time last week. As the children settled down and prepared for story time, I found a seat toward the back – perfect for quiet observation.
The animator began with songs and rhymes full of clapping and movement. The kids, all aged between 0-5, were already watching diligently. With their parents holding them in their laps, gently guiding their children and repeating after the animator, I could see the little ones already getting the hang of this. They watched wide-eyed as the animator then pulled out the first story of the day: Elliot Bakes a Cake. Lionel decides to bake Elliot Moose a cake for his birthday but it quickly turns into a disaster when Lionel is unable to follow some of the complicated instructions. Thankfully, Elliot comes to help. They work together and manage to bake the best cake either of them had ever tasted. You don’t need to read children’s books to realize that this is a story about teamwork and friendship. Watching the kids listen so avidly was touching.
In the moment that we finished that story, something magical happened. Joy, the director of RECLAIM, came out with a bowl of ingredients – all the ingredients needed to bake a cake. The story was coming true. Just as Lionel and Elliot had done, we were going to bake a cake together. Everyone was bursting with delight. Joy gave turns to the older kids at mixing the bowl as the younger ones watched in awe. You see, the day I visited was one of the rainiest days of the week but story time went on indoors regardless. No matter what, a story, a snack, and sunny people can bring light to any situation.
Reading aloud to children is incredibly powerful. In an article recently published by the NPR, it says that, “When we read to our children, they are doing more work than meets the eye”. As we read to them, they build the muscle in their brain that brings images to life in their minds. According to another recent article in the New York Times, The more parents read with their children, the more children have an opportunity to think about characters and the feelings of those characters. Eventually, “they learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.”
As I watched the staff of RECLAIM and the animator of the Storytime program mobilize to read to these children, I realized that there is so much more to them than what meets the eye. They are the unsung heroes of our lives. And yes, heroes don’t always wear capes. Most times, they are the ones who make us cake. They’re the ones who read us stories that help us understand friendship and teamwork. They sing silly songs and rhymes. They bring us joy without any inhibition. They light the way for us every single day.
Has a book ever changed your life?
When I was seventeen, one changed mine. I read a book that gently informed the rest of my teenage years and continues to guide me today. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet fell into my hands as a gift from my father. It remained on my bedside table for a month before I tentatively reached for it on my way out one day and cracked it open at a Second Cup one faithful summer afternoon. I remember not being able to put the book down and I still remember Rilke’s words: “No experience has been too slight, and the least incident unfolds like a destiny, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide web in which each thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another and held and borne up by a hundred others”…. A cold coffee had never tasted so good.
I was reminded of that passage recently. To me, it speaks to life’s little moments that we sometimes take for granted – the ones that seem little yet, in the grand scheme of things, have the power to greatly shape our lives.
A couple weeks ago, Literacy Quebec had its first free book giveaway. Book donation boxes had piled up in our Verdun office that deserved to be opened and shared. So we set up a table on the sidewalk outside and gave each book a spot in our moveable library. The response was incredible. Before we even had a chance to finish setting up the full table and boxes beneath it, our first curious street-goer ventured over. And then another and another and…another.
I pulled up a chair next to the table and watched joyfully as…
We really had a bit of everything on that table – War and Peace, books on the wines of Burgundy, a guide for first-time elementary school teachers, The Wind in the Willows, books on fashion, books on chocolate cake, parenting advice, poetry and books on places to visit. A bit of everything. And at the end of the day, we were surprised to find most books had cleared out. We were surprised about what people in our community gravitated toward and it turned out that “a bit of everything” had become our sweet spot. A bit of everything appealed to a bit of every one on the sidewalk that day and it was a fantastic thing to see.
A small event like this one also strengthened a sense of community in Verdun. At one point, two women reached to take the same book - something that, for dramatic effect, could've spurred a small quarrel. However, they instead agreed to share the book. They exchanged phone numbers and agreed that when the first was finished reading, she'd call the other to arrange a meeting to exchange.
And for some of our visitors, this initiative was an opportunity to grow their love of reading. Two little boys from the school across the street came by our table after their class let out. They were each holding a small plant and after they both chose their books, they scurried off. With a plant still in one hand, one boy had chosen a book about how pencils are made. He cradled it tightly with his other available hand. Perfect balance.
The magic of the printed word is definitely not dead. People still reach for books when they can. It's just that, nowadays, buying new books and even some used ones can be costly and not everyone has time to browse a library. Sometimes a small sidewalk giveaway is needed to remind them of their love of reading.
As I watched people come by our table, I caught a glimpse into the excitement that reading and books still spark. An event of this nature can have tremendous impact that isn’t necessarily quantifiable but can be subtly, powerfully informative to the rest of our lives. Mexican artist Jorgé Mendez Blake illustrated this in his viral art installation “The Impact of a Book”. The installation itself was 23 metres long and used 5000 bricks. Yet, only one book was needed for the message to be conveyed and sometimes that’s all it takes. A book, an illustration, a poem, a sentence, a word and an idea – they can all act as threads that support the wonderful, wide web of our lives.