This past week I travelled to the South Okanagan along with fellow CWILL author James McCann to participate in a fabulous literacy project. Through the auspices of Raise-a-Reader and the tireless work of Yasmin John-Thorpe of the Penticton Writers and Publishers, over eight hundred books by James McCann and myself were distributed to kids in schools in Penticton and Summerland.
Each highschool student that James met was given a copy of his book Pyre, while each elementary student in my presentations was given a copy of one of my three Kendra Kandlestar books.
It was a whirlwind trip for us. Between us, James and I presented workshops at eight different schools, interviewed with two radio stations, and were covered by two newspapers. We earned our keep—but it was our privilege.
Even though we both now live in metro Vancouver, we both have childhood connections to the Okanagan. I myself grew up in Osoyoos (the southern-most town in the Okanagan Valley), where I spent many hapless days struggling to fit into a rural lifestyle while having visions of one day becoming a published author. I eventually achieved my dream—but it was often a lonely and anxious journey; I can only imagine what a profound impact an author visit would have had on me as a child.
Both James and I work hard in our presentations to provide a connection between the visual arts and reading and writing. It’s a tactic we’ve had a lot of success with. It’s one thing to talk about literacy, but when each student actually leaves the presentation with an actual book in his or her hand—well, the whole relationship between the student and the author takes on a different meaning.
Our thanks to all who supported the tour: Raise-a-Reader, The Penticton Writers and Publishers, and all the schools, principals, administrators, teachers—and, of course, the students.