Learning to read is important for children. It expands their worlds and worldviews in a ways we cannot learn from other sources. It creates feelings of achievement and empowerment in our ability to learn about any topic we find interesting.
I grew up in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Our hamlet, Dore Lake, had approximately one hundred citizens year round and because it is a community rich in tourism, hunting, trapping, and commercial fishing, people would travel from all over the world to visit. Five hundred and fifty square miles of fresh water lake in the middle of the boreal forest we spent most of our time outside.
Our small hamlet in Dore Lake was two hours from groceries, doctors, police, and emergency services. We were right in the middle of boreal forest with gravel road access that was sometimes inaccessible due to heavily rainfall or snowfall. We typically travelled one hour to a local small town for mail and two hours to a larger town for supplies, doctor, hairdresser, etc.
My Family Environment
My family owned Dore Lake Lodge and I was serving coffee and ice cream in our restaurant as soon as I could walk and talk. My dad had a plane and grass airstrip as some of our tourists would travel from other provinces or the United States with their personal planes. My dad’s plane was sometimes our means of travel if there were heavy rainfalls or forest fires. Our community was remote and isolated but bustling with activity. Our lodge was opened from May long weekend until October long weekend. In the winter months we would snowmobile, cross country ski, skate, play hockey, and curl at our community curling rink.
Television reception was in and out and depending on the weather situation my dad would turn the antenna outside the lodge and we might have been able to see Hockey Night in Canada or the National News. I grew up watching Star Trek on Saturday mornings and hockey on Saturday nights. Disney was my favourite Sunday time for one our. When I couldn’t be outside because of the weather, and besides this limited access to television, I read, did arts and crafts, and played music.
I attended a one room classroom school and I remember starting Kindergarten in 1980. Mrs. Snell was my teacher and we were downstairs in our school. I remember playing at recess and being introduced to Jack and Jane books.
Grade 1 was with Miss Janet Morris. She managed kindergarten to grade 8. Grade 9 was correspondence and students needed to travel out to another community of their choice for high school. At most we had twenty nine students, the least was nine. Janet was our teacher, principal, nurse, counsellor, coach, mentor, and friend. I admire her to this day and still remain in contact with her through Facebook. She was my inspiration to teach and in particular, to teach my children about phonics. I remember my ‘Hooked on Phonics’ (1980) workbooks and how interested I was in learning to read. I remember her telling me,
“Suzanne, if you learn how to sound out a word, you will be able to read any word in the world.”Miss Janet Morris (Circa 1980s)
I told my daughters the same thing. My upbringing and experiences in the classroom were a blessing.
My reading skill developed very quickly because I was so interested in learning about life out in the world, outside of Dore Lake. I wanted to explore and see the world and started as soon as I learned how to read maps and encyclopedias. I loved reading the encyclopedias, so full of knowledge and interesting facts. I would sit with an encyclopedia on my lap and spin the globe. I would stop the globe randomly then look up the country I pressed my finger on to learn about their culture, language, history, and anything about them.
As I got older I started reading anything I could get my hands on. Our little school library was limited and I had read all of the books in no time. Tourists would leave books, magazines, and newspapers and some of the regular tourists would bring me books each year to read that were age appropriate. I am laughing as I write this as age appropriate was rare with what the tourists left behind.
I read the Western Producer, an agricultural newspaper published monthly in western Canada, Maclean’s magazine, a Canadian magazine about news and politics published weekly, The Star Phoenix, a daily newspaper from our closest city that we would get on the weekends when tourists would bring them, Harlequin romance novels, Jackie Collins novels (so filthy!), Sidney Sheldon novels, Danielle Steele novels, and quarterly hunting and fishing magazines. I will say I learned a lot about life, relationships, politics, communication, and human needs in my readings.
Janet was my teacher until my parents bought a house and hired a nanny in a city four hours away. I moved in grade 8 and commuted by bus to work on the weekends at our lodge until winter season. I was in a city of 200,000 people and we had a huge library in our school. I became interested in reading about world history, Egypt, Africa, and the environment. Social studies and history were my favorite topics, besides art and music, and I would spend hours consuming anything I could about these topics. Shakespeare and Chaucer were also my favourite reads and this is where I became interested in linguistics. Realizing we had old English and modern English changed my life and I was so interested in learning about the history of English and our language development.
Interests in Literacy
In Canada we also have to learn French in school so I was learning about French history along with the language until grade 12. At this time in my life I was also exposed to Spanish and fell in love with the language and Mexican culture. We travelled to Mexico frequently and I felt whole when immersed in another culture and language. I read about France and Mexico and continue toread about countries and languages before I travel. I did the same when I travelled to Tanzania, Africa in 2018.
As an adult I started reading best sellers at the time, having read all of the romance and explicit novels as a young girl, I was interested in books like ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’(Golden, 1997), ‘A Fine Balance’ (Minstry, 1995), ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ (Kingsolver, 1998), and many more. These books fed my desires to learn about other lands and cultures in our world. I would read every night and explore the world through the eyes of the authors.
When our girls were young, I read to them every night as well. Right from when I was pregnant I started to buy them books and read to them, sing to them and tell them stories. Both of my girls love to read to this day and growing up they always had a library full of books. We would also go to the library every weekend and replenish our reading for the week ahead. We would sit and read together in the evenings after homework and bath time and they would tell us about their stories and what they liked about them. I always believed children who love reading will excel in academia. Since I had grown up in a home with limited television, I never took an interest in watching shows so my girls would have tv time for a show or two a day or on the weekends then they would be reading, playing outside, swimming, arts and crafts, and eventually with their horses.
My Literacy Journey Today
Today, I enjoy listening to audiobooks. I like listening to the authors voice as they read their novels. When I am home I will turn on an audiobook and when I am out I have my headphones listening to their stories.
As I am already a published author for conflict management books, one day I plan to live out my retirement writing children’s books and illustrating them with my paintings. To this day I love reading children’s books like ‘Rainbow Fish’ (Pfister, 1992) because of the heartwarming stories and illustrations.
A Fine Balance. (2010). Goodreads.com. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5211.A_Fine_Balance
(2021). Becquet.ca. http://www.becquet.ca/director/maps/images/beauval.gif
Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read – Levels 56 Complete (Emergent Readers | First Grade | Ages 6-7). (n.d.). Www.goodreads.com. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13259354-hooked-on-phonics-learn-to-read—levels-56-complete
Memoirs of a Geisha. (2013). Goodreads.com. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/929.Memoirs_of_a_Geisha
The Poisonwood Bible. (n.d.). Www.goodreads.com. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7244.The_Poisonwood_Bible
The Rainbow Fish. (2009). Goodreads.com. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/766020.The_Rainbow_Fish