Fall 2018, Vol. 38, No. 2
ISSN 1704-6033
En français

Letter from the Editor


What a pleasure it was to put together this special edition of the IBBY Canada newsletter focused on the Readers and Refugees pilot program in Toronto.

In this issue, we have the opportunity to meet some of the volunteers involved in the pilot program and hear about their expectations, motivations and experiences with the training — and reading with the kids at the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre. We also hear from Mary Beth Leatherdale, President of IBBY Canada, about the next steps for the program.

I hope you are heartened as I was to go behind the refugee crisis news headlines and meet people who are contributing to the welcoming of refugee children to Canada and, as Sandra Gonzalez from Christie points out, helping to create a sense of community for refugee families.

It was also a joy to learn about the pleasure the children had in reading — and the books that they loved. (Spoiler alert: dino pop-up book = hit)

Thank you to everyone who were generous with their time and lent their voices to the newsletter.

Happy reading!

– Patti McIntosh, Newsletter Editor

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Volunteer Perspectives

Reflections on Expectations — and Books
Theo Heras, author, librarian, IBBY Canada 2nd Vice-President

What did we volunteer readers expect during IBBY Canada’s pilot program of reading to refugee children at Christie Refugee Welcome Centre? What would we encounter? We had prepared. Mariella Bertelli, who has trained people in Italy for the Lampedusa Silent Books project, led us through workshops and the initial visit.

On May 28, 2018, there we were, a handful of volunteer readers, setting up books we brought in suitcases, knapsacks, and bookbags, loading up tables with books we hoped would connect with the children.

And then they came — about nine or 10 children, mostly between the ages of seven and 11. They ran straight for the books, picking them up and choosing the ones they wanted to read. Mariella took the lead and soon she had a group of about four boys gathered around her as she read stories and talked to them. The rest of us sprang into action, sitting down and sharing books with the children. I sat with a little girl of about a year old and her mother. We read board books and even recited a nursery rhyme or two.

One boy asked me if we had any dinosaur books, but there were none. I put the word out for the following week and volunteers came loaded with dinosaur books — non-fiction, narrative non-fiction, picture books, and at least one pop-up. Pandemonium, or is that dino-mania, ensued. The pop-up circulated around the room as every child wanted to have a turn with it. I have never had to read aloud so many difficult dinosaur names in my life and I laughed as I fumbled with the words and my young listener corrected me.

Mariella had asked me to put together a reading list for the first of our workshops. Remembering my time working at the Sanderson Library in Toronto, I added many fairy tales which I had found the new Canadian children gravitated to at the library. My list went pretty much out the window (no dinosaur books, I’m sorry to admit) as the children directed us towards books of all kinds. Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman (North Winds Press, 1992) was a favourite (and on the list!). So was The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion with illustrations by the Fan Brothers (Tundra Books, 2016) and Press Here by Hervé Tullet (Chronicle Books, 2011).

The room each week was filled with the sound of stories shared, children’s delighted responses, and enthusiasm all around.

The five-week pilot program was a success. In our wrap-up evaluation meeting we considered ways we could improve and ways to expand.

The enthusiasm is undimmed and all of us are looking forward to the fall.

Reflections on Training Experience
Emma Sakamoto, Managing Editor, Groundwood Books; Promotions Officer, IBBY Canada

Thirty volunteers took part in the Readers and Refugees training; many of whom will begin reading once the program expands in the fall.

One of those volunteers, Emma Sakamoto, Managing Editor at Groundwood Books and Promotions Officer for IBBY Canada, offers insight into the training program, perspectives on the training experience — and her readiness to read.

What motivated you to get involved in the IBBY Canada Reading and Refugees pilot program?

Hearing about the program is actually one of the big things that motivated me to become involved with IBBY Canada in the first place. I work in a field (children’s publishing) where we talk and think a lot about how books can change lives — and this program was a way to see that firsthand in a concrete way.

What were your expectations going into the program?

I expected to learn more about how reading can benefit children in general and refugee children in particular. I was looking forward to learning how to read together when language is a barrier.

Where did the training take place? Over what period of time?

The training took place at the Palmerston Library (part of Toronto Public Library) and once at the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre.

The initial information night was held on April 23 at the library, and we had subsequent training sessions on April 30 and May 14, with a final session on June 27 to discuss how the pilot program went and what our next steps are. Each training session was about an hour and a half to two hours long.

Who led the training?

Mariella Bertelli, who has run a similar program on the island of Lampedusa in Italy, ran the training. She also asked guest speakers to talk to us about their experiences with books and reading: Patricia Aldana, former president of IBBY International, founder of Groundwood Books and fundraiser for the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund; Pam Mountain of Toronto Public Library; Hadley Dyer, editor and author; and Theo Heras, children’s author and former librarian.

What did the training involve? What topics were covered?

The training involved learning more about IBBY’s Children in Crisis Fund. We also talked a lot about our own memories of reading as children, how to choose books, how to create a safe reading space, how to “read” wordless picture books…

Did anything about the training surprise you? Do you have a favourite memory?

For one of the training sessions, everyone was asked to bring in a few picture books and to share them with the group. It was really cool to see the lifelong impact books make on us. People brought in newer books, but also books from their childhood, or books that they had read to their now-grownup kids. It was fun to see some classics pop up — those books almost everyone in the room had read as a child and would still choose to read to a child today.

Do you feel ready to read?

I think so! From what I’ve heard from volunteers who have already had the chance to read with the kids over the course of the pilot program, you can’t predict what kids will want to read and how the session will go. It sounds like there’s a lot of improvising happening! Mariella has stressed this from the beginning: you can go in with a clear plan of what you’re going to read and how, but it’s ultimately the kids who decide what happens. I’ve heard lots of amazing stories, so I’m excited to volunteer myself!

Volunteers gathered for the last night of training.

Reflections on Reading — and Books
Carolyn Madonia, retired Managing Director, The Children’s Book Bank; community volunteer

I was immediately interested in participating in the pilot program because of my experience connecting with children through books and reading at the Children’s Book Bank in Regent Park. In addition, I have been involved for over 10 years as a volunteer with the work of Matthew House Refugee Reception Services in welcoming and assisting refugee claimants in Toronto.

The individuals and families I have met through Matthew House have had a huge impact on me and my family, and have opened my eyes to the struggles that refugees face on arrival here. I have seen how a simple connection can make such a difference in making a newcomer feel welcome.

The idea of the IBBY pilot program goes beyond the joy of reading with the children by extending a welcome to their families, possibly providing a diversion for the young ones and a respite for the parents at the same time.

Unable to narrow down my choices very much, I did bring quite a selection of picture books to the program. You never know what to expect and what will interest the children. Building on my experience at the Children’s Book Bank, I tried to select books that weren’t too text heavy or too heavily centred around Toronto childhood experiences, such as hockey, that refugee children are still discovering.

In the end, I was so pleased to share Barbara Reid’s The Party (North Winds Press, 1997) with the girl who picked it off the table right away. We had a lot to talk about with all of the picture clues, from the variety of food to what we thought the characters were feeling based on their facial expressions, not to mention the process used to create the illustrations. I have long been a fan of Barbara Reid’s books and so it was a great choice!

The most enjoyable part of the Readers and Refugee pilot program was the kids. They were so enthusiastic and outgoing and so happy to have an audience. They are just kids.

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The Booklist: What Did the Kids Like?

What to read? At each session, the children were welcomed by tables of books filled with choices to explore: from folk and fairy tales to picture book classics to a range of Canadian non-fiction.

The guidance to the volunteers was simple: bring books you love and you are comfortable reading aloud.

Here are some of choices from four of the volunteers from the pilot reading program — Grace Andrews, Claire Caldwell, Nan Froman, Kathleen Tanai — and the selections made by the kids:

Grace Andrews, retired children’s librarian

Why did you want to become involved in the IBBY Canada pilot reading program?

I have been a member of IBBY for some time and have always been impressed by the humanitarian efforts of IBBY groups around the world. I am happy to participate in any way to support projects that promote IBBY’s principles.

What book(s) did you bring to read to the children?

First, to be clear, the books I brought to share with the children were not always the ones the children chose to read.

I was pleased when the children seemed to enjoy Harry, the Dirty Dog (HarperCollins, 1956), which is one of my favourites. However, the one I read most often, more than once on occasion, was titled The Animal Boogie by Fred Penner (Barefoot Books, 2011).

Why did you choose that book?

The story of Harry, the Dirty Dog is engaging; children can relate to the little dog who hates to take baths, and the ending is satisfying. The pictures illustrate the text perfectly.

Claire Caldwell, Associate Editor, Annick Press

Why did you want to become involved in the IBBY Canada pilot reading program?

I was drawn to the pilot program because it combines two things I love: reading and spending time with kids. I’m also an editor at Annick Press, where we believe strongly in engaging kids through stories and in publishing books that represent a diverse range of people and experiences. The pilot program was another way to put those values into action.

What book(s) did you bring to read to the children?

I let the girl I was reading with choose the books. The book she seemed to connect with most was Bone Button Borscht by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dušan Petričić (Kids Can Press, 1995). The room was filled with the buzz of other kids and volunteers, but we were deep in the world of the story. At one point, we were even counting buttons we saw around the room, to see if we could make our own bone button borscht in a pinch. Dušan’s detailed, dynamic illustrations allowed us to linger over each page and expand on the story.

What book(s) were selected by the children to read?

Once I had a sense of what types of stories she preferred, I helped guide her toward books she might like more than others. But I think it’s important to let kids choose which books to read. Reading gave me such a strong sense of independence when I was young (it still does, frankly). A shared reading experience is a great opportunity to encourage a young person’s curiosity and sense of agency.

Nan Froman, Editorial Director, Groundwood Books

Why did you want to become involved in the IBBY Canada pilot reading program?

Last year I had the chance to accompany a Syrian refugee family on their first visit to the Toronto Public Library. The father and his 15-year-old daughter were particularly interested in getting library cards and checking out ESL materials, and their enthusiasm was contagious. So when this opportunity came along, I was keen to take part.

What book(s) did you bring to read to the children?

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart (Candlewick Press, 2005)

What book(s) were selected by the children to read?

Luke, the eight-year-old boy I was with, was a strong reader and said he’d like to read about dinosaurs. When he opened this gorgeous pop-up book, which also has quite a lot of text, his heart practically leapt out of his chest. It may have been as thrilling for me as it was for him.

Kathleen Tanel, retired literacy teacher and mentor, Toronto Catholic District School Board; volunteer, The Children’s Book Bank

Why did you want to become involved in the IBBY Canada pilot reading program?

I am a retired literacy teacher who currently volunteers at the Children’s Book Bank. My passion is anything dealing with books and I love children so I thought that this pilot reading program would be a perfect fit for me. I also hoped that my skill set would assist refugee children in adapting to Canada in some small way.

What book(s) did you bring to read to the children?

In this case we had three tables of books ranging from board books to high level picture books. We displayed them and the children picked the book they wanted read to them.

What book(s) were selected by the children to read?

The children — two boys aged 8 and 11 — picked Pigs (Annick Press, 1995), The Duck on the Truck (Frederick Warne & Co., 1950), Franklin in the Dark (Kids Can Press, 1986) and the Prince of the Dolomites (Harcourt, 1980). The boys appeared to enjoy funny books and also stories that dealt with animals. The last book didn’t fit into these categories but it did have some adventure that may have appealed to the boys.

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Perspectives on the Readers and Refugees Pilot Program from Christie Refugee Welcome Centre

IBBY Canada’s partner in the Readers and Refugees pilot program, Christie Refugee Welcome Centre, is “a place of welcome, safety and support for refugees” in downtown Toronto.

Christie provides emergency shelter, care and support for approximately 300 homeless refugee claimants (100 families) annually from all ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds as they pursue their claims — and start new lives in Canada.

While the length of stay at Christie Refugee Welcome Centre will differ for each family, it can be from two to four months. Currently at Christie, there are approximately 30 children who range in age from newborn to 12 years.

As described by Sandra Gonzalez, Housing Worker and Children’s Program Coordinator at Christie, it is important that during their stay the Centre, it have the sense of home for those children and their families; that the families have the opportunity to build community and belonging.

Programming, such as the IBBY Canada’s Readers and Refugee program, is as part of building that community and sense of belonging.

Sandra describes the refugee claim process as a time of tremendous stress and pressure for the parents; and a time that demands much of their focus. For the children who participated in the pilot program, they looked forward to the “time and presence” the reading program offered them — and loved being in a space where they were the focus of attention, where they could chat one-on-one with a volunteer IBBY reader and feel important.

Most of the school-aged children in Christie have fled normal lives and have experience with school and books and, for the parents, the sense of continuity in reading was important. (School-aged children at Christie can be enrolled in the local school if they have identification and the appropriate letters.)

And the response from children to the pilot program was equally positive including the ravest review from one boy who, when told by Sandra of the last day, said: “Oh, no. I want to go back and finish my book…”

The promotion of the reading program to parents was very simple. Posters were put up in the house. As well, during meetings with the families, staff would inform them of the opportunity.

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Building on Success: Expanding the Readers and Refugees Pilot Program
Mary Beth Leatherdale, President, IBBY Canada

When IBBY Canada put out a call for volunteers for a therapeutic reading program for young refugee claimants at the end of April, we had no idea what kind of response we would receive. Much to our delight, 30 eager volunteers stepped up to become readers. Training began and a five-week pilot program at Christie Refugee Welcome Centre was launched. And, as evidenced by the accounts in this newsletter, it was a great success. Even better news, this is just the beginning.

A few weeks ago, the steering committee met with COSTI Immigration Services in Toronto. COSTI provides temporary accommodation and initial settlement services and support to refugee claimants in the City of Toronto. The IBBY Canada Readers and Refugee program is pleased to announce that this fall, we will expand to three COSTI locations — one a small centre in downtown Toronto with 10-15 children as well as two large centres in North York, each housing 200 children. The reading program will also run at Christie Refugee Welcome Centre in the fall.

In just a few short months, our collective dream of an IBBY Canada therapeutic reading program for young refugee claimants has become a reality. Of course, none of this would be possible without the efforts and enthusiasm, the patience and persistence of so many. To all of you who played a role in the launch of this venture, my heartfelt thanks. And, to all of you who are intrigued by this initiative, stay tuned as we prepare to officially launch — and continue to expand — the Readers and Refugee program in 2019!

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Nahid Kazemi is IBBY Canada’s 2018 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence

IBBY Canada is pleased to announce that Nahid Kazemi has been selected for the 2018 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program, to be held at Northern District Branch of Toronto Public Library. During her residency in the month of October, Nahid will present art activities for school children at the library, lead evening workshops in the library for adults and teens, make presentations to art students in high schools and colleges, and offer portfolio reviews. All of the Illustrator in Residence programs are free.

Nahid Kazemi has a BA and MA in Visual Arts (painting) from the Art University of Tehran, and has taught drawing, illustration and graphic design at the University of Sooreh in Iran. She has illustrated 60 books for children and adults, and has been published around the world, including in Canada, USA, UK, Slovenia, and Iran. Her Canadian publishers include Groundwood Books (I’m Glad That You’re Happy), Éditions de l’Isatis (Les mots d’Eunice), and Annick Press (Syria Story). Nahid moved to Canada in 2014 and lives in Montreal.

The Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program, launched in 2013, offers a published children’s book illustrator a month-long residency in a Canadian public library. The previous illustrators include Martha Newbigging (2013), Patricia Storms (2014), John Martz (2015), Dianna Bonder (2016), and Ashley Barron (2017). The program honours the life of Joanne Fitzgerald (1956–2011), whose children’s books include Plain Noodles, Emily’s House, and Doctor Kiss Says Yes, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award. The program is a joint project of IBBY Canada, Toronto Public Library, the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, and the Young family.

From applications received from illustrators across Canada, the 2018 Illustrator in Residence was selected by a jury comprised of Ashley Barron, the Illustrator in Residence in 2017; Sarah Bradley, Library Service Manager, Toronto Public Library; Meghan Howe, Library Coordinator, Canadian Children’s Book Centre; and Mary Beth Leatherdale, president of IBBY Canada.

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International News

Call for Volunteers: Lampedusa International Camp
October 29 to November 3, 2018

Project “Silent books: from the world to Lampedusa and back”

IBBY is looking for volunteers who would like to help and support them in inventing new ways of using and enjoying books, and in continuing the development of the newly opened IBBY library on the island of Lampedusa, which was inaugurated on September 16, 2017.

At a time of uncertainty and change in ways of communicating, the IBBY library has discovered a new way of making use of freedom; together we have to learn and
understand what new challenges and possibilities can be gained from this experience.

From Monday, October 29 to Saturday, November 3, 2018 we are returning to Lampedusa to work together on how to create a library that is at the same time international and
local; normal and yet extraordinary; and is ready to welcome all those who pass through.

For further details, click here. All those interested in taking part should contact Deborah Soria at IBBY Italia: soria.deb@gmail.com

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IBBY Canada Newsletter

Editor: Patti McIntosh

Copy editor (English): Meghan Howe

Formatter: Trish Osuch

Banner Illustration: Martha Newbigging