I am an anti-racist educator

art by @maxine.sarah.art

There are some events happening right now, mostly in the United States, that are very upsetting. There are people who have been hurting for a long time and are trying desperately to make their voices heard. I won’t describe the events in detail here, rather I will let families choose how much of this specific story is known in your homes.

One thing that I believe is not optional, especially for those of us who are in positions of the most privilege (white, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical, and whose people come from a Christian background), is that we work to make space for stories of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) and other folx who live within the structures of oppression in our society.

There is racism in Vancouver, and there is racism in our schools. There has been, in some way or another, always. In the last couple of months people with Asian family heritage have been targets of escalated verbal and physical violence. That racism is present and active in our city and schools is something we all need to understand and accept before we will be able to create spaces that are truly safe and supportive for every single one of our students and their families. I want every family at Quilchena to know that acts of racism or any other acts of oppression are not okay in our community.

This year I started working on a diversity audit of our English fiction collection in the Quilchena Library. This means that I have started gathering information about how diverse (or narrow) the selection of stories is in our library. This will be an ongoing project for me as I work my way through our French and English fiction, our French and English easy chapter books, our French and English readers, and our French and English picture books. I will be devoting a significant portion of my library budget over the next few years to improving the balance of voices represented in our library collection, specifically focusing on #ownvoices titles.

There are a lot of great lists being published right now that can help us find books written by and about people who are not always represented on our home and school library, and classroom shelves, but who are definitely represented in our community. I have also found some helpful tips for talking to kids, particularly kids living with systemic privilege like my own daughter, about racism.

If you would like any help pursuing these topics at home or at school, I am happy to chat or host a more formal conversation about it.

Book Lists

We Are Kid Lit Collective: 2020 Summer Reading List

Picture Books about race, racism and resistance

Middle grade #ownvoices books

Other reading, mostly for parents

Why read diversely?

“The Top 5 Reasons Well Meaning White Parents Do Not Discuss Race With Their White Children”

Talking to young children about race.

“Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk about Race: resource roundup”

If you are in need of new books

Calling all Quilchena Readers!

I know that you have all been worried about how you will complete the Quilchena Reading Challenges now that you don’t have access to our library. Well, never fear!

I am happy to announce that I have secured a small discount of 10% for all Quilchena Readers at Book Warehouse (both the W Broadway & Main st locations.) You can call or go online and choose your books and they will get them ready for you to pick up. They are also allowing one family at a time in the children’s /YA section (but better to not browse right at the moment. Talk to me in your Class Team if you need suggestions of what to read.)

When you pay for your books, simply tell the cashier that you are from Quilchena and are doing the Quilchena Reading Challenge and they will apply your discount (you can use this discount for reading material other than the challenges too.)


You may also be aware, but there are other local bookstores that are being pretty great right now too: Pulp Fiction Books and Massy Books both have free delivery anywhere in Vancouver, and Iron Dog Books is a great new store that has a great selection (including puzzles) and can schedule pick up times like Book Warehouse.

Poetry Month Day 10

This poem is written to address parents. It is also my wish for you all right now. Poetry has the amazing ability to hold us in a moment and give us the space we need to breathe and see our world a little more clearly.

“Do not ask your children to strive” by William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

Tips for Reading Aloud: March edition

Image result for parents reading booksThere is something extra special about sharing a beloved book from our childhood with our own small people. There are a number of picture books from when I was little (early 80s) that are still in print today.

It is always a good idea to preview a book before beginning to read it aloud. In the case of a book we remember fondly from childhood, the preview isn’t so much about making sure the text works well as a read-aloud, but rather to screen it against the test of time. The fact is that some books, despite our fondest memories, do not age well. When read today, to today’s young audience, a number of “classics” are rather jarring in their treatment of diverse characters (read: they are sexist and racist.)

Image result for reading AND together OR kids OR parents

Sometimes we can change words on the fly, if we encounter a problematic term and it’s fairly isolated. Other times the prejudice becomes so thick, so quickly, that the best thing we can do is to stop reading and show our authentic dislike of the text; talk about why the prejudice is not okay as well as how you remember reading the book as a child (when it wasn’t something that stuck out as inappropriate) and isn’t it great that we can see a tangible example of how we are getting better as a society?

Keep sharing your favourite stories with the young people in your life.

Happy reading!

Tips for Reading Aloud: February Edition

*a few days late

Among other special days (like my birthday) February sees us celebrating both Family Day and Pink Shirt Day. Both of these days are inspiration for this month’s tip(s) for reading aloud.

Reading aloud together is a wonderful way for family members to bond with children. Try to make some time on your next visit with extended family for them to sit with the kids and read. Older siblings can also read to their younger brothers and sisters and, in doing so, strengthen their relationship in a unique way.
If a family member if willing to try reading aloud, they may not have a good book at hand. It can be helpful if you have a title to offer in case it’s needed.

Pink Shirt Day reminds us that it is better to face discrimination head-on. By standing up, speaking out and taking positive action we can often deflate hurtful situations. One way to start preparing young children for the inevitable day that they will be faced with injustice is by reading stories about significant issues and talking about them together. By experiencing troubling topics in the safety of a story read aloud while cuddling on the couch, children develop the emotional skills they will need when confronted with a troubling situation in real life.


Does your family get enough sleep?Image result for children sleeping creative commons

We often sacrifice sleep for other things in our lives but sometimes we push our baseline too far and our lack of sleep can impact our health.

Did you know:

  • According to the World Sleep Society, the risk of injury increases by up to 70 per cent when young athletes get less than eight hours of sleep. Conversely, sleeping more than 10 hours a night has been shown to increase sprint speed, shooting accuracy and mental health of college-aged basketball players. (source article)
  • Lack of sleep causes irritability, increased stress, forgetfulness, difficulties with learning and low motivation. Over time, it can contribute to anxiety and depression. (source article)
  • Sleep problems are one of the most common concerns for parents. In fact, sleep problems have been estimated to affect 30% of children. (source article)

The Canadian Pediatric Society has produced a general guide to the amount of sleep young children need over a 24-hour period, including naps.


There are a lot of excellent resources on the Canadian Sleep Society website. There is a lot of great information, podcasts, and other resources.


Tips for Reading Aloud: January Edition

New year, new habits.

I have a friend with whom I used to work at Kidsbooks who had a family routine that I admire: after supper most nights she would read aloud from the dinning table while her partner and daughter washed the dishes. They did this well into her daughter’s teen years.

We often read a story aloud at bedtime. What other regular times might be conducive to reading aloud? Sunday mornings? While you wait for lessons to start? Or, if it’s challenging to find a regular time, try to choose reading aloud as a spontaneous family activity, like on a sunny afternoon, laying on the grass in the park.

Continuing to read aloud to our children as they get older has a number of benefits:

  • it supports their vocabulary development
  • it allows you to engage in tricky conversations about difficult topics
  • it maintains moments of closeness, physically and emotionally
  • it models an ongoing reading life

There is some more good information in this post on the blog “Best Book for Kids.”

Tips for reading aloud: December edition

Image result for longest night bauerI read The Longest Night by Marion Bauer to many of my classes this week in preparation for the winter solstice on Saturday. Each time, I turned off the lights over the story-time area of the library to simulate the dark and quiet of the longest night of the year.
The resulting atmosphere was very effective to invoke the rich wintery shadows of the illustrations as well as to highlight the sense of the animals calling out into the night.

Sometimes setting up the environment with a simple change can be an easy way to enrich our read aloud by infusing our listener’s atmospheric experience.

Grade One Tips for Student Success

This post is primarily for families with a child in grade one, but of course will be interesting and helpful to caregivers of all Quilchena students.

Our grade one teachers are Mme Bouchet , Mme Megan, and Ms Petrenko. These tips support their programs, built their years of experience teaching 6- and 7-year-olds.


Sleep: it is extremely important for children to get enough sleep as it directly impacts their mental and physical development.

          • Make sure that students have a regular bedtime–even on weekends– that allows them to get at least ten hours of sleep a night.
          • Thirty to sixty minutes before bedtime, all technology is turned off, and it’s time for reading and quiet music.
          • Ensure the bedroom is dark, except for a night light, and no TV is allowed in the room.

Core strength: children who have less core strength have a hard time sitting still at desks and find it harder to sustain focus on active learning.

(From Jamie Spencer’s blog, Miss Jamie, OT)
Some indicators of poor core strength:

          • Does your child change positions frequently?
          • Do they lean on the desktop?
          • Slump over?
          • W Sit?
          • Have difficulty paying attention?
          • Use their “helping hand” to prop themselves up?
          • Do they always lean on the wall, the couch, or you?
          • Are they struggling to ride a bike or tie their shoes?

If the answer is yes, then it’s very likely that the child has poor core strength. Sometimes we are expecting too much of a child who simply doesn’t have the strength in their musculature to sit up for more than a few minutes. So they lean, slump, or fidget to try to get comfortable.

How to help develop core strength:

          • Pumping legs to swing on a swing
          • Walking, running, or biking to school
          • Climbing on playground equipment
          • Yoga, Karate, and Swimming
          • Riding a bike
          • Climbing trees
          • Obstacle courses that you crawl through
          • Crawling through tunnels
          • Skateboarding, rollerskating, using a scooter board or razor scooter
          • Chores that require heavy lifting: carrying laundry, groceries, etc.
          • Chores that involve pushing/pulling: shoveling snow, sweeping, etc.

Students learn at different rates and in different ways, but these tips will support all our learners in being happy and healthy at school.

Tips for reading aloud: November edition

Happy November! The leaves have changed colours, the wind has a chill to it, my sweaters are moving to a more prominent spot in my closet…. It’s autumn!!!

This month’s tip for becoming better at reading aloud is voice modulation. That sounds technical and sophisticated but really all it means is varying the speed and volume of your voice. In Reading Magic, Mem Fox (children’s author, illustrator, and advocate for reading to children of all ages) suggests this as one very quick and easy thing to do that will make your read-aloud voice ten times better.

You don’t have to do all the funny voices for all the characters to be entertaining. When you read a story, let the words and sentences you’re reading come to life by:

      • putting more space in the middle and at the end of certain sentences. A pause right before or right after a key word or phrase can provide time for your listener to anticipate what’s about to happen or absorb what just occurred in the story.
      • s l o w i n g down an individual word for emphasis.
      • speeding up your reading during an exciting part of the story. Slow back down to regular reading speed before you reach the end of the sentence/section; the dynamic push and pull of reading speed will excite your listener.
      • let the pitch of your voice rise and fall or let your volume become a shout or a whisper as the text dictates. Literally do the thing the narration tells you. (“He floated up, up, up into the air….”) Don’t worry if you miss one. I always miss that first piece of dialogue that’s followed by the tag “…she whispered.” You’ll get it the next time around.

You don’t have to do all these things at once. Choose something that seems the easiest to try and play around with it. Unsurprisingly, the more you practice your dynamic read aloud voice the easier and better it will be.