Walpole Island hosts first ever launch of reading program on First Nations soil

Bkejwanong First Nation Public Library librarian Linda-Lou Classens cuddles with kids signed up for the TD Summer Reading Program while watching Captain Matt entertain the crowd as he searched for his magic story book. The day marked the first launch of the national program in a First Nations community.

Residents of Walpole Island First Nation had more than one reason to celebrate the coming of summer June 21 on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

TD Summer Reading Club – Canada’s biggest bilingual summer reading program for kids of all ages, interests and abilities – was launched for the first time on First Nations land at the Bkejwanong First Nation Public Library, Walpole Island First Nations (WIFN).

Designed to inspire kids to explore the fun of reading their way, TD Summer Reading Club provides kids access to free reading resources and activities all summer long. In 2017, more than 700,000 participated in the TD Summer Reading Club.

Shane Kennedy, TD Vice President Market Leader, Southwestern Ontario, attended the launch on behalf of TD and was impressed with the enthusiasm from WIFN librarian Linda-Lou Classens and the kids for reading, saying the program was a good match in the community.

“It’s all about kicking off the summer and kicking off our summer reading program. It’s a big bang registration we have across the country – Get Your Summer Read On – and we’re delighted this is the first launch on a First Nations community and we’re delighted to be here on Walpole Island as well,” Kennedy said.

“We look for communities that have high engagement and lots of excitement and we couldn’t think of a better location than right here in this community. This happens across the country with 500 different libraries and we reach 11,000 children on our one day of registration so we’re really excited to be here today.”

Classens, who is a passionate advocate of literacy and promoting a love of reading early on, said the community was very excited to host the summer launch of the program, and appreciated the event being filmed by Library and Archives Canada, who run the program nationally with TD as a sponsor.

“I am really, really excited about our TD Summer Reading Club and any kind of children’s programming, but this is what TD does; they fund every library in Canada. That is why this is so stellar. It’s the first time TD or Library and Archives Canada have ever done a launch in a First Nations community,” Classens said.

There is a launch in French and in English each year for the program across Canada, she noted, but this year marks the first launch in a First Nations community.

Classens sits on the National Creative Committee for planning the summer reading program for 2018-2019 and was asked to be a part of it after Lianne Fortin, Program Manager at Library and Archives Canada heard her speak at an Ontario Library Association super conference. Thinking she was being contacted about an award she had applied for, Classens said being a part of the committee was better in the long run.

“I can promote First Nations issues and small rural library issues to a wider audience,” she noted. “What came out of applying for that award was bigger than that because now we have local, provincial and national attention that is focusing on a First Nations library. Library and Archives Canada funded this launch and brought all their people in, and TD is a major sponsor and they helped out so much on a very special day here.”

Known as Linda-Lou the Library Lady to the kids in the schools and in the community, Classens said it comes naturally because she sees herself “as a teacher, an author, a storyteller and see all this as a natural fit.”

The launch included lots of activities for kids, an Ojibway hymn and drumming, community members speaking on the importance of honouring their first language as well as learning others, and a speech from WIFN Chief Dan Miskokomon who advocated working as a team to educate children, and seeing reading as an enjoyable way to learn.





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