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Centre for Literacy off to a successful and busy year

​The Centre for Literacy at Nipissing University is having an action-packed and productive year filled with great initiatives, opportunities and events.

Goals and objectives established for the Centre for Literacy include promoting socio-cultural awareness of the contemporary classroom; establishing community partnerships to support literacy development across the lifespan; providing leadership through collaboration, advocacy, and communication; promoting effective literacy practice in teacher education and graduate studies; sharing and disseminating innovative research findings that inform and enhance classroom practice; and providing professional development for teachers, administrators, and teacher educators.

Following, are a number of successes already accomplished, and a look ahead to key initiatives in 2018.

September’s Events

NU2042 Time Travellers Wanted. Dr. Michelann Parr, Elizabeth Thorn Chair (2017-2020), kicked off September with a five-minute Time Travelling talk entitled Family-School-Community Partnerships: How will you be engaged? In consultation with many collaborators, she looked to the future of family-school-community literacy 25 years from now. Snippets include dreams of potential… in research, community work, and education - where we see strength in families instead of deficit, possibility instead of problem, a continuum of growth from cradle to grave supported by intergenerational connections; and a closely integrated and committed local village, a time when we “regain the sense of community that we once had, and that still exists in some places: a supportive, caring community that allows children to be outside while parents are making dinner, without fear of kidnapping or false accusations of neglect.”

Book Launch. Literacy Out Loud, selected as Pembroke Publisher’s September book-of-the-month was launched at The Raven and Republic. Close to seventy-five community members including teachers, educational assistants, principals, and community members engaged in great talk about oral language as the authors, Dr. Terry A. Campbell and Michelle McMartin, crafted personally relevant book inscriptions. Fondly referred to as LOL, the book is aimed at enhancing the link between talk and learning in the classroom. It was followed by a Professional Development workshop for teachers in the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board.

October’s Partnerships

Learning Together. Members of the Centre for Literacy were well represented at the 12th annual Learning Together! Apprenons ensemble! conference held on October 13, 2017, co-sponsored by the Schulich School of Education, the Learning Partnership, numerous local community partners, school boards, businesses, and service organizations. It really does take a village to raise children. The families, school boards (all four), and community organizations of the Nipissing District extend a formal thank you to the generous support of Mr. Seymour Schulich for this event attended by over 250 families. Children and families were fortunate to engage in workshops hosted by a range of community partners and of course, by our very own faculty and students. Dr. Kristen Ferguson provided a hands-on workshop that engaged children and families in oral language and encouraged literacy skills while sculpting playdough creations. Amy Dickerson, a Masters of Education student, hosted families in science play outdoors, demonstrating how the five senses support and enhance inquiry and experimentation in the natural world. Dr. Tara-Lynn Scheffel, accompanied by Bachelor of Education (BEd) students Michelle Mort, Chelsea Carvalho, Sarah McGovern, Katie Gillis, Katrina Bies, Jillian Gear, Natalie Williams, and Katie Armstrong, hosted the Books for Brook corner, complete with a reading tent with books to take, share or leave, fulfilling one of Dr. Elizabeth Thorn’s core principles – every child, every day, deserves a good story.

November’s Excitement

Let’s Take Literacy Outdoors! Professional learning opportunities, during the Schulich School of Education’s PRO week for first-year BEd students, hosted by Dr. Michelann Parr, saw students trekking through new fallen snow, chasing their leaf man, finding the perfect rock, engaging in five senses poetry, and using the stories of trees as an entry point into creative biography writing. All this in an effort to enhance the link between literature, learning, wellbeing, and just plain fun in the great outdoors.

Family-School-Community Day of Action On November 22, 2017, the Centre for Literacy joined with The Learning Partnership, the Near North School Board, and the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board to organize a family-school-community action day that was attended by close to 100 participants composed of over 20 Early Learning Teams (teachers, early childhood educators, and principals), community members, community partners, faculty from Nipissing and Canadore. Mayor Al MacDonald brought greetings on behalf of the city and thanked participants for their authentic conversation throughout the day. With Dr. Michelann Parr, participants engaged in open conversations about family-school-community engagement and what we hope for and envision for families in the Nipissing District. Dr. Darlene Ciuffetelli-Parker, professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University deconstructed the complexities and unconscious assumptions of poverty, mental health and school success, supporting participants to see what matters most in tough times. The day concluded with a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Cindy Peltier, Nipissing’s Chair in Aboriginal Education, focused on understanding what we want for our children on the traditional territory of Nbising and how to engage Indigenous parents as partners in education; Dr. Peltier was joined by three parents, Samantha Goulais, Candace Fisher, and Christine Lariviere, each of whom spoke openly and authentically about what matters most to them. BEd students were fortunate to have a sneak peak of the day’s events the night before; not only did they enjoy a good story (Where the Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor), they also engaged in lively discussion with Dr. Parr and Dr. Ciuffetelli-Parker about family engagement and poverty.

December, A Time to Plan

During the month of December, the Centre for Literacy will work with the Embracing All Voices steering committee to plan for January’s outreach with individual school communities who participated in the Family-School-Community Day of Action. This is a possible 10-15 onsite workshops. If you are interested in supporting schools and communities as they explore how to make engagement more than an event, please contact us! As well, possible university partnerships for Ready Set School will be explored.

Looking Ahead to the New Year

Writing Our Way Through February. On February 10, 2018, the Centre for Literacy and The Learning Partnership have scheduled a daylong workshop designed to familiarize and prepare teacher candidates to teach and assess narrative writing using the Learning Partnership’s Turning Points program. Alumna Marianne VanderDussen (’17) will be joining us to share her masters research, a practical application of the program with a multiliteracies twist.

Looking Ahead to the Spring. Dr. Michelann Parr has been invited to conduct an interactive workshop with close to 200 early learning teams, childcare centres, and community partners from the East and West Parry Sound areas, supporting their exploration of family engagement.

As well, plans are underway to invite junior level students to the university as literacy leaders in training in late Spring.

For further information and/or to join us in our quest to make literacy(ies) happen, please contact Dr. Michelann Parr at michelap@nipissingu.ca.

The Centre for Literacy has been established in connection with the Elizabeth Thorn Chair in Literacy, created in 2002. As a founding member of the Nipissing University Faculty of Education, Dr. Elizabeth Thorn dedicated her life to the promotion of literacy and inspired educators around the world with her wisdom, passion and commitment to language education.

For more information on the Centre for Literacy and some of our initiatives, please click here.

Submitted by Dr. Michelann Parr

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