Indigenous Reads: Winter

For the month of December our Indigenous Display is focused around works that deal with the season of winter.

Le Parka = The Parka = Atigi by Sylvain Rivard 

Part of an anthropology of Indigenous clothing, Le Parka = the Parka = Atigi, is trilingual, with versions in French, English and Inuktitut. Illustrated by the author, The Parka explores the history of this traditional garment made from sealskin, caribou skin, walrus gut, and even from bird feathers!  Explores the people from different parts of Land, and how their traditional styles of Parka differ. Worn by all in the community, the parka offers protection from the cold and magical creatures.

SkySisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose; illustrated by Brian Deines

Two Anishinaabe Sisters travel a Journey through the snow up Coyote Hill under the stars to see the SkySpirits dance. All around them the world is silent with winter, and the sisters must remember to be silent on their journey and remember the words of their Grandmother, “Wisdom comes on silent wings”.  Richly illustrated it brings the Northern Lights to life through the awe of two young sisters seeing them for the first time.  

Christmas La Pouchinn by Deborah L. Delaronde; illustrated by Virginia McCoy

Follow Raymoosh’s life, a Métis boy, through the seasons helping his grandparents at their cabin. He learns lots helping them, tap the trees to collect sap, boiling syrup for maple candies. Throughout the seasons Raymoosh and his grandparents try to keep their traditions alive on the Land, taking pride in their hard work.  They use all that they have harvested to prepare their Christmas feast for when their family friends and loved ones come on Christmas day, and afterwards Raymoosh will travel around the bay to visit all visit family and friends for dancing, singing and celebrations all the way until New Years.  

Rabbit and the Bear by  by Deborah L. Duvall; illustrated by Murv Jacob.

As winter approaches, readers are taken on a journey following Yona, a bear, as he travels up into the Smokey Mountains to prepare for hibernation. Accompanied by the trickster rabbit Ji-Stu, they trek up the mountains to the hidden refuge for all animals at Lake Ata-Gahi. The animals that gather share food, stories and song before they must prepare for their winter hibernation.  Highlighting Cherokee stories, this resource is part of the Grandmother Stories series. 


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Winter Reading from our Historical Collections: Shakespeare and Dickens

There’s no better time than December to cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate and a classic read! This month, the Ontario Historical Education Collection has gathered its books featuring two of the most well-recognized authors in English Literature; William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Follow along to learn how these two authors were taught in Ontario schools, and to discover how winter was celebrated in some of their most famous works.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a playwright and poet. He is celebrated across the world for his collection of famous collection of comedies, tragedies, and history plays including Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Henry V and many more. In 1623, 36 of Shakespeare’s plays were published in a compilation commonly known as the First Folio. Half of the plays included in the First Folio had never been published before, meaning that many of Shakespeare’s works might have not survived otherwise.

Many copies of Shakespeare’s works in our collections were annotated – perhaps by students!

Shakespeare’s works have been taught in Ontario schools since at least 1858. A peak into the General Catalogue for Books for Public School Libraries in Upper Canada (1857) indicates that anthologies such as William Hazlitt’s Shakespeare and Collier’s Shakespeare (both famous essayists and Shakespeare scholars) were selected by the Council of Public Instruction and were available for teachers and students to borrow. Though these books were available, they may not have been widely circulated. As school libraries were developed in proportion to school size, it was not uncommon for borrowing to be restricted in smaller schools. In some cases, if families had more than one member in the same school, librarians were instructed to “deliver not more than one book at a time for each family”, meaning students would have to patiently wait their turn to borrow books (or share them!). 

Anthologies such as Tales from Shakespeare (1932) organized plays into comedies, tragedies, and histories similar to the First Folio.

The oldest Shakespeare work in the Ontario Textbook Collection (OTC) – Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice by William J. Rolfe – dates from 1879. Through the 1930s, many plays preserved in the OTC were printed individually, often accompanied by illustrations, glossaries and editor’s notes. Hand-size copies of plays such as Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Taming of the Shrew might have been useful as portable copies for performance – like many students today, the former readers of these books were no strangers to underlining and annotating their speaking lines! By 1936, students in Grades 9-12 were expected to read at least one of Shakespeare’s plays as part of their English Literature course. Anthologies such as Tales from Shakespeare (1932) offered students a choice reading selections. By 1960, Shakespeare had become so synonymous with English and Drama studies that the Ministry of Education had to release a statement in its Grade 11 and 12 Courses of Study reminding teachers that no more than 25% the time allotted in a literature course should be spent on Shakespeare!

An illustration from Twelfth Night (1936)

 Twelfth Night, or What You Will, was one of the plays to be introduced in publication through the First Folio. Twelfth Night is a romantic comedy about a countess who falls for a lover dressed in disguise, and was first performed on February 2nd 1602 at the end of the Christmastide season. In early modern England, the Christmas season officially began with Christmas Eve, and ended with Epiphany Eve, or the Twelfth Night. The first recorded public performance of Twelfth Night was on February 2nd, 1602, at Candlemas, the official end of the Christmastide season in the church calendar. Though the play was likely performed in celebration of the holiday season, the actual content of the play has little to do with the time of year.

A copy of A Christmas Carol from 1902.

In fact, the Christmas holiday that is celebrated today most closely resembles the Christmas season of the Victorian era (mid 19th century to early 20th century). The Victorian Christmas holiday prioritized church and family togetherness, and festivities revolved around families and friends coming together to eat and drink. Charles Dickens‘ (1812-1870) A Christmas Carol, originally published as a short story in 1843, is still regarded today as a classic Christmas story, with many play performances, literary and film adaptations contributing to its long-lasting success. Despite its current popularity, many of the symbols of Christmas today – Christmas trees, carolers, and exchanging presents – were not in the original version, which instead prioritizes contributing to charity. Dickens followed A Christmas Carol with four other Christmas stories; The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848). 

A full colour illustration of Scrooge and Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol (1906).

The Ontario curriculum introduced elementary readers to Dickens through anthologies such as Charming Children of Dickens’ Stories (1906), which featured abridged chapters and illustrations from tales such as The Old Curiosity Shop, A Christmas Carol, Dombey and Son and David Copperfield. Individual copies of A Christmas Carol (1907) and The Cricket on the Hearth (1920) were glossaries and readers notes were assigned for use in public and high schools throughout 1910s and 1920s. By the 1930s, curriculum documents for high school English courses indicated that teachers were required to teach one of Dickens’ novels to students in Grades 9 and 10, and another in Grade 11 and 12. Choices alternated between David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist

To view the works of Shakespeare and Dickens available from our Ontario Textbook Collection, be sure to stop by the Ontario Historical Education Collection display case on the ground floor of OISE Library. To access the ground floor during construction, you can enter from the second floor and take the elevator or stairs.

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New Titles for Inspiring Change

The end of the year is a time for reflection and resolution. What better time to check out some new books to inspire your educational practices? This month, our new titles reflect on the nature and purpose of education and its ability to include and inspire all teachers and learners. Education can and should change the world!

Teaching for Purpose  by Heather Malin captures this theme in its entirety. As Malin asks in her introduction, “What matters most to you? […] If you could change anything in the world, what would you change? When you were in school, did you have the opportunity to explore these questions and really think about what you value, who you wanted to become, or how you wanted to use your learning to contribute to the world?” The purpose of education matters, both for teachers and students, and Malin emphasizes that students need to be aware of the goals of their education and how they can use it to contribute in the world. Teaching for Purpose is divided into three parts that respectively describes the theory and research surrounding youth purpose development, examines teaching and pedagogical approaches to supporting purpose development, and reviews programs that currently exist to teach students how to create purpose in their lives. It is a touchstone for educators who are eager to “create a culture of purpose” in their schools, and its first chapter, asking you to explore your own purpose, might just inspire you, too!

For educators who wish to inspire further systemic change, Educators on Diversity, Social Justice, and Schooling: A Reader, edited by Sonya E. Singer and Mary Jane Harkins is a collection of essays written about pressing social issues in education. Change cannot be implemented if the issues are not understood, and this reader provides a variety of perspectives on race, poverty, colonialism, diversity, and social justice more broadly as they exist within education, written by “a diverse group of critical and forward-thinking scholars who are addressing issues because of their deep commitment to becoming agents of change.” The third section of the book, focused on “schooling,” is especially helpful for educators by exploring students’ and teachers’ relationships with each other and with social justice initiatives in the classroom.

The dialogues created between academics and educators in Educators on Diversity, Social Justice, and Schooling: A Reader can be continued in the classroom with Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All, written by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi, and  illustrated by Ashley Seil Smith. This picture book is appropriate for all ages, facilitated by an adult storyteller. It encourages young learners to “make room” for everyone and stand in solidarity with those who might be different from them. Told in rhyme and filled with bright pictures, this book is a vibrant introduction to themes of social justice and equity. It also contains extensive notes, a discussion guide, and a list of inspiring books for further reading.

Older elementary and high school students may be inspired by Can Your Conversations Change the World? by Erinne Paisley. Written from a very accessible and current feminist perspective, this book is meant to spark conversations about equity. Paisley is a young feminist currently studying at the University of Toronto, whose outspoken approaches to feminist issues have gone viral (including her statement prom dress fashioned out of her math homework in 2015, meant to raise awareness and funds for girls’ education). Can Your Conversations Change the World? is her third book, and it provides an overview of some of the most pressing issues in global feminist movements, calling on today’s youth to take social action and work for change where they want to see it most in the world.

For even more feminist inspiration, and affirmation that anyone, anywhere can make a difference, check out Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison. This charmingly illustrated collection of mini-biographies of remarkable women from across the globe is an inspiring introduction to the lives of influential and revolutionary women in art and science, including figures like painter Frida Khalo, author Toni Morrison, chemist Asima Chatterjee, environmentalist and activist Wangari Maathai, and many others. As Harrison writes in her introduction, “Through their curiosity and creative thinking, these ordinary women accomplished extraordinary things. Thanks to their persistence and willingness to make mistakes, they had a lasting impact on their fields of study, and some even changed the world.” This book will inspire all audiences, and it’s great for sharing with younger readers!

All of these books — and more inspiring reads for both educators and learners! — can be found on the New Titles shelf on the ground floor of the OISE Library.

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Indigenous Storywork and Literatures

This month’s Indigenous display is focused on Indigenous Literatures and Storywork. All of the books in the display were written and curated by writers with the firm belief that stories have the power to effect personal, political and social change. These stories are used by Indigenous writers to imagine and engage with different relationships between the communities, land, history, family, and other individuals. Below are a few selections from the display. If you’d like to check out books from this display you can do so by visiting the Ground Floor Display of OISE Library (across from the New Titles shelf) and taking out the books.

The Gift is In the Making is a collection of 21 tales from the Nishnaabeg storyteller Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Her purpose for the compiling these stories was “to liberate a few of them from the colonial contexts in which they are too often documented – in which we see the marginalization and subjugation of female characters and spirits, a focus on hierarchy and authoritarian power, and an overly moral and judgmental tone.” The collected stories in the book are also surrounded by full-page illustrations which widen the scope of the storytelling throughout the book. This book is recommended for students age 9 – 15 or grades 4-9.

Why Indigenous Literatures Matter is described as “part survey of the field of Indigenous literary studies, part cultural history, and part literary polemic.” This book is an extremely important resource that reflects on the connections between literature and lived Indigenous experiences. Furthermore, it also works as a tremendous resource for those who are trying to explore Indigenous writing as it provides an encyclopedic appendix at the end that speaks to the canon of Indigenous literature that has always existed—even if obscured by colonial history. It also asks readers to reflect on their own assumptions when the engage with Indigenous literature and stories at large. This book is written for both general readers as well as for specialists who have certain topics of interest in the field.

Turtle Island Voices is a curriculum resource that shares the histories, perspectives and stories of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities across Canada. The book is written in a way that encourages students to respond and engage with the stories by sharing their own stories and perspectives with one another. This book is also aimed at slowly improving the literacy of students by doing activities such as answering questions about the themes discussed in the stories, or including sentence starters. The activities and stories are adjusted for different grades from Gr.1 – Gr. 6

Taking Back Our Spirit focuses on how different types of Indigenous literatures spanning from contemporary autobiographies, fictional works, drama and much more function as medicine that help heal individuals as well as their communities. This book traces back to how the earliest settler policies focused on dealing with the “Indian problem” and how the historical trauma of those public policies still impacts Indigenous peoples today. Episkenew identifies how undertaking different reading strategies can highlight how writing can be a tool for social justice. Some of the writers whose works she explores include Basil Johnston, Maria Campbell, Beatrice Culleton Mosionier and Richard Wagamese. This book is recommended for those interested in literary criticism.

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Featured Activity Kit: Make-A-Simple-Sentence Flip Boards

Looking for a way to teach sentence structure and parts of speech to your students? Then look no further than Make-A-Simple-Sentence Flip Boards! This kit will bring hands-on learning and colourful sentence-making to your classroom.  

Knowing how to make sentences is a crucial skill. Make-A-Simple-Sentence contains 3 flip boards with 60 cards per board. Students can use the boards to make short, simple sentences. The cards are colour-coded so students can learn the parts of speech as they build their sentences. There are also several blank cards that can be written on with dry-erase markers, so students can add in their own words. This kit is an excellent hands-on resource that allows students to engage with sentence-making, sentence structure, and parts of speech.  

This activity kit is recommended for students in JK to Grade 2, as the sentences that can be made are very basic.  

If you would like to try out Make-A-Simple-Sentence, it is currently on display in the third floor Display and Play area of the OISE Library. For more language-based kits like Make-A-Simple-Sentence, please look through the OISE Library K-12 Manipulative Database or browse the 3rd floor of the Library. 


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