Capturing Our Power by Reading program designed for FNMI students

By Garrett Simmons

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Communications Officer

Literacy is important – there is no debate about that.

For young students, having the opportunity to read books of their choosing is an important part of that process.

With that in mind, Lethbridge School District No. 51 has partnered with the Lethbridge Public Library for the Capturing Our Power by Reading program, which aims to have FNMI children enhance their relationship with their culture through books, literacy and cultural activities.

“Dr. Martha Many Grey Horses – it was her idea to have a program that would promote literature and literacy among young FNMI students,” said Laurie Darveau-Willms, the library’s community FNMI literacy liaison.

Many Grey Horses, the director of the FNMI Centre at the University of Lethbridge, described the mission statement for the program: In a safe and happy environment, we encourage the young minds of our First Nations Metis Inuit children to welcome the world of reading by providing a variety of inspirational books and literacy materials.

The program, which runs out of the Children’s Library in the downtown Lethbridge Public Library, began on Oct. 12, and will continue each Wednesday until Dec. 7, when a Literacy Powwow will be held as a wrap-up.

“Last week, we had 13 students, and this week we had a few more,” said Darveau-Willms about the number of students who have been participating, as she added the program has space for 20 students.

Volunteer tutors, along with District FNMI liaisons from various schools, assist with the program each Wednesday, as the afternoon sessions include snacks, scavenger hunts and crafts. The Oct. 12 program featuring five Lethbridge Police Service officers, in full uniform, who read to the students.

“We just want the kids to develop the love of reading,” said Darveau-Willms. “It’s great for them to come to the library and be comfortable here.”

Shawnee Big Bull, a FNMI liaison with Lethbridge School District No. 51, echoed those sentiments.

“The biggest thing for this program would be to have the FNMI students build a relationship with the library and with books,” she said. “They can pick books they see themselves in, or pick books that interest them.”

Big Bull added some students have not had the opportunity to visit the downtown library, while others have maybe only used the computers inside the library.

“This program eliminates that timidness to actually pulling books off the shelves. They are encouraged to pull off those books.”

In the end, the hope is the nine-week program will see the FNMI students develop a positive association with the library, create a relationship with an adult community member through the tutoring aspect of the program and have a positive experience with the expression and presentation of their culture. Having students experience multiple resource materials, with diverse characters and materials, is another goal for Capturing Our Power by Reading.

Jackie Lever, FNMI consultant, for Lethbridge School District No. 51, added the pilot project also aims to boost student performance in school.

“We want to find out whether this has an impact in the classroom, and are the teachers finding this has made an impact.”

Family members are also encouraged to take part in their child’s literacy experience during the program, which runs on Wednesday afternoons from 1:15-2:45 p.m.

Date posted: Oct. 20, 2016