As you know if you have been reading my blog, I am a big supporter of taking children outdoors to stimulate curiosity and help them make connections between learning inside and outside of the classroom. January 2016 brought a special addition to some of the parks, playgrounds, schools and libraries in Vancouver. Reading Lights is a collaborative project of Vancouver Public Library and the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of B.C. Society. Twenty Reading Lights plaques were installed in the community to pique the interest of children and their parents in reading. Each plaque highlights a B.C. children’s book, the author and the illustrator. Some plaques feature books and authors who are familiar with Vancouver school children like the Chinese speaking dog in Norman Speak by Caroline Adderson, Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell of Interior Salish and Metis background and knowledge, Crocodiles Play by our fun Vancouver teacher, Robert Heidbreder and School Days Around the World by our enthusiastic traveller, Margriet Ruurs. Other plaques offer new discoveries to be sought out. An interactive map and website allow us to discover more about these exceptional children’s books and the authors and illustrators who bring them to life.
Last week we headed out from Tecumseh Elementary School to Memorial South Park to tap the opportunity for the curricular integration opportunities recently endorsed in the Redesigned Curriculum in British Columbia. En route to the park, we incorporated our math lesson on measurement into our daily physical activity. We counted paces of city blocks to determine the average, compared the differences between our paces, estimated the number of paces in a metre and the number of metres in a city block. We also incorporated Science into the adventure by checking out the clouds to determine if rain was on the way, classifying trees into deciduous trees and conifers and observing the ducklings with their mother in the park. Social Studies concepts of cardinal directions and mapping were also reinforced. We also had a chance to run around the track and play of the playground. Writing notebooks were handy for any observations to be noted.
There was the general excitement of making the discovery of the reading lights plaque over by the duck pond, at the intersection of Prince Albert Street and 43rd Avenue. Although Valerie Wyatt has written more than 14 books, with a special focus on science topics, we hadn’t discovered her book, How to Build Your Own Country. All of the children decided that we needed to write down the name of the book. Two suggestions came to the forefront. Amy suggested that I should go to Kidsbooks and buy it because we were probably going to like it a lot because it was on the pole and we should have it in the classroom all of the time. Ronnie’s suggestion was that we needed to go on another field trip to the public library because they made the poster and they would have the book. In all cases, students concluded that it was a book that they all needed to read before the end of the year.
This speaks to the success of this program. Going to the park from home or school becomes more than daily physical activity. Children going to play in the park, are enticed to incorporate reading as another fun activity to do at home or school. This is particularly important as students are moving towards the summer holidays and the risk of losing reading gains is imminent without continued reading. My hope is that more Reading Lights posters will be added throughout the city. As students explore their communities, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be introduced to a range of books, authors and illustrators on a regular basis. My recommendation is that other cities follow suit and implement this simple but brilliant idea.