Success in Early Reading

July, 2013, North Saanich:

My friends and I are sorting used books in a large gymnasium preparing for our book sale in aid of scholarship and bursaries for local students. Grandson, Tait, six years old, sits on the floor under a sorting table going through a pile of children’s books. He’s not finding anything interesting.
My retired kindergarten teacher friend approaches him to make a suggestion. Then she turns to me.
I explain that Tait, who is having a few days for his “summer holiday” with me, is struggling at school with reading. He’s a kind, considerate, classmate with many friends – teachers love him – but that doesn’t help with what he needs to learn.
She tells me, “Sometimes little boys find reading harder than girls do. They need to be allowed to try reading just anything, whether you approve or not, simply let them read.” And so we did; the strategy took hold.

Lego was important in Tait’s home. Big construction projects were always under way, pieces scattered wherever one stepped. Siblings and friends worked at building cooperatively and with the addition of cars and ramps new creations grew. Little sister coveted a pink Lego set in her room. Then, at a birthday party Tait was introduced to Minecraft.
With clever appeals to his parents they agreed to have a trial Minecraft game membership on two of the tablets in the house. Membership expanded until each child had the program and still I had no idea what they were talking about on the phone.

The day I arrived in their town I witnessed this new passion: the three siblings with a best friend from school sat around the room, each with a tablet on their knee. As I listened to the conversation and then peeked over a shoulder, I gleaned that together they were building a castle, with a separate room for each child according to personal specifications. There were stairs, hallways, a basement, built-in defence mechanisms, a moat, extended gardens, and so it went. I was astounded at how well they worked together, planning how common spaces would be used and what they would look like.

That’s when the light came on. If this was his current interest maybe there were instruction books. Yes there are. At the local bookstore I picked two hardcover Minecraft how-to books. There was a set available but I wasn’t sure this idea would work. It did; those treasured books are still on Tait’s bedroom shelf.

More thoughts bubbled up. On Amazon.ca I found fiction books based on the Minecraft game. Tim Winton has an enormous list to his name and I began to purchase and send them. These proved popular. Instead of the age appropriate magazine subscriptions I had sent the previous year I sent each child a loaded Chapters card for them to make their own choices.

This took me to a large Chapters store where I sought a clerk who knew kid’s books. Fortunately the young man understood what I needed and was very familiar with the choices. He showed me several different series about animals that turned out to be well-loved by the girls. The most dependable author he showed me was Mark Cheverton.

Each book in the Cheverton series’ is numbered 1, 2 and 3. One is even called The Gamekeeper Series, referring to the Minecraft game. Once more Amazon was my further supplier. Cheverton uses some frightening titles, for example, The Great Zombie Invasion: The Birth of Herobrine Book One. Next in the series is Attack of the Shadow-Crafters, then Herobrine’s War. If I had not had such good advice I would certainly not have chosen such titles for a boy of nine.

A long-time friend visited overnight and when her son came to pick her up to go home we were talking about Tait’s reading and my search for more authors that would interest him. “Try Rick Reardon’s Percy Jackson series,” he said. “They’re far out but the kids love them.” Given that this young man writes fantasy stories I believed him. He was right.

Percy Jackson is Tait’s current favourite character as he explores Greek mythology of other worlds, such as in The Mark of Athena, book 3 of The Heroes of Olympus series.
The best part of this simple story is that during the November Parent-teacher interviews Tait’s progress in Grade 5 reading was a highlight. He’s seeking books to take home from the school library now and has even loaned one of his precious books to a good friend. On a science research project about clouds he and his partner used words in an innovative and humorous way. They showed the clouds speaking with comic book style balloons to hold the words.

The most satisfying part for this grandmother was to see Tait devouring every new book he can get his hands on and when there is nothing new available he goes to his own bookshelf and chooses one to reread.

My recent pictures of Tait tell the story of his new love of reading. There he is after a quick dip, sitting on a catamaran surrounded by other family members who are still swimming and snorkeling. There is another of him reading with his sister at the airport while waiting to load.

Launching My New Book

I began this crazy business of writing after complaining about a book I had used in high school. Called Foods and Home Management the little red book was first compiled in 1932, and I was teaching from it! That complaint to Ministry of Education’s Bruce Naylor brought me to writing two popular foods and nutrition texts whose story will be a part of my next book.

Beyond the Floathouse, Gunhild’s Granddaughter, begins a boat trip back in time to 1938, when a baby girl was born in Vancouver General Hospital. Her mother, Hazel Forberg, had travelled from Port Neville aboard the SS Chelosin at least a month before she was due to give birth, particularly since this was her first child. Our arrival home to the Port Neville dock occurred a month after my birth as the first Forberg granddaughter. We need to remind ourselves that in that remote location of the Forbergs floating hand-logging camp, there was no medical help available: no hospital, doctors, nurses or even a doula.

Cover of ‘Beyond the Floathouse, Gunhild's Granddaughter’This little book is the second of a trilogy that began with from Fjord to Floathouse, one family’s journey from the farmlands of Norway to the coast of British Columbia. Those of you who have read it will recognize the girl Rae. In this new book Rae is Myrtle Rae Forberg, now writing in first person. Many of the same locations, including Port Neville and Rock Bay, are important in this book too, of course.

Port Neville was the farthest northward stop for the Union Steamship before it turned south. Those boats were our only connection to the outside world. Their schedule brought the ship north every two weeks.

Mail and all supplies arrived then; including any groceries that couldn’t be picked, fished or shot. Most food came in sacks and cases and except for root vegetables, all vegetables and most fruit came canned, with no such possibility of fresh green vegetables.

The first chapter of Beyond the Floathouse, Gunhild’s Granddaughter describes my welcome at Port Neville and tells about the much earlier arrivals of both sets of my immigrant grandparents. The next four chapters describe other aspects of my early life and the lives of those other residents of that remote area: school lessons from the BC Elementary Correspondence School, taught by mothers, Christmas preparations and any other important celebrations on our floathouses, sometimes with my grandparents and occasionally our extended family.

Then at Chapter 6 came a huge and important life change: We moved our house – from the float where it had always been, on to a spot of land farther south along Johnston Strait to Rock Bay. Even more importantly, there was a road out, a rutted gravel logging road, but it went to somewhere! For the first time I was able to experience very small forms of independence, incremental, but nevertheless, – – I could walk all the way around our house, climb up on the rock after which Rock Bay was named, and at nine years of age I even learned to ride a bike!

Readers will find that at the end of most of the chapters I have inserted a more recent thought I call Reflection. A good example is on page 78 where I explain the call that water has had on me. This move to Rock Bay also meant that for the next 4 years I got to attend a real school – we had one teacher who taught 8 grades sometimes having up to 28 pupils. We all learned cooperation and sensitivity there and a good understanding of at least one other culture.

In this case 2/3 of the students were of Chinese heritage – children of the Jay brothers who came originally from Victoria. Their fathers – as Jay Brothers Logging – worked in the next bay and the camp crummy brought the children to and from school every day.

The next shocking change comes at the end of Chapter 8, when I was ready to begin Grade 9. My parents made the decision, I learned much later it was an agonizing one, to send me out to Campbell River for high school. They were not yet prepared to move as a family, or to send me away to private school, so they arranged for me to board with different families for each year of high school. However, with that move, I was being trusted with the responsibility of making my own choices and I was only 13 years old! Beginning about Page 97 I’ve tried to describe the loneliness of that transition.

Then during Grade 12, I suffered a huge surprise. Imagine this, I’m called on the school’s PA system to the principal’s office! There sat Mr. Fogg and Mr. Monk together with the principal, Mr. Phillipson, who asks if I ever considered going to university.  No, Not really,” I replied. The fact was I had never knowingly met anyone who had been to university.

Shaken by this unexpected meeting I asked myself, Why? What more do they want to know? I remembered having an argument with my father who would never allow me to fill in the part of the school counsellor’s form where it asked for the parent’s annual income. His secretive nature about the privacy of money issues was part of the reason why I never knew if, or how much, he paid for my board so I could attend high school.

“We have already completed some parts of this form,” Mr. Phillipson said. “Here they are, you just have to fill in the personal details and write a short essay about why you would like to have this scholarship to be a teacher,” he told me.

To be a teacher was it? I thought. Well that would be okay. Better than working in Pat’s Style Shop where I would be this summer. “Maybe you can write the essay on this weekend and bring it in to me on Monday morning,” he continued. “Then I can get it mailed off for you next week.”

And so I did, and the envelope went on its way —-

 

Religious Freedom?

I’ve always enjoyed reading but lately I’ve become alarmed by the number of books and stories in the general media that tell the story of people, predominantly women, who have finally escaped after long years of virtual imprisonment by leaders of some religious sect, or in some cases more accurately described as a cult.

Through my interest in the rights of women I’ve discovered that around the world there are many beliefs that place women on the lowest rung of humanity, some established by male leaders as breeding machines for increasing the followers of that sect, many as a source of income because of the work they accomplish without being paid. Others keep women hidden away under strange clothing deemed to be the only acceptable way for them to appear in public and when they do, in some instances only with a male relative.

Canada prides itself in having freedom of religion, which is frequently used as a defense for these, to most of us, unusual practices. But Canadians also believe in equality under the law. Where does that equality go when a person attempts to leave the community only to be told by the captor that they must follow the precepts of the religion or they will be excommunicated, or depending on the group, go to Hell.

I submit this brief introduction to explain my thoughts as I offer the names of some of the books I have read about such apparent “bondage.” And there are many others. You’ll find these ones listed on my Goodreads bookshelf.

Hutterites: Our Story to Freedom Shamed: The Honour Killing That Shocked Britain – by the Sister Who Fought for JusticeBeyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape  Property: The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife Reading Lolita in Tehran Not Without My Daughter A House in the Sky Infidel The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women Stolen Innocence Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy