Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More on Literacy for Life

The Literacy for Life Conference was inspiring!

The organizers, John Barton and Judy Ostrander, newly retired school principal and vice principal, gathered together an amazing group of people to share books and ideas on literacy. It was the fifth conference they have successfully organized.

About 4000 Saskatoon students and their teachers were invited to the university campus to hear authors speak. The organizers were excellent fundraisers and managed to get the wide support of their community and business leaders in order to host the conference. This allowed all the students to attend at no cost to themselves. Wow!

I was one of the authors kindly invited to speak, and was impressed by both the organization of this massive event, as well as the genuine enthusiasm and interest we encountered from all of our audiences.

Over the courses of two days, I did 8 presentations and each of my audiences probably held 250 students and teachers. Thank goodness, I had developed a slide-show presentation and was given a microphone. Otherwise, I would have been thoroughly intimidated! There was no need for nervousness, however. Every presentation I made was received with warmth and kindness. Thank you, Saskatoon students and teachers!

Also on the program were authors: Frieda Wishinsky, Marie Louise Gay, Marsha Skrypuch and 5 others, including illustrator, Bill Slavin. It was so much fun to spend time with the other presenters, and really learn from each other (and share lots of laughs).

Our hosts provided us with the legendary hospitality that the prairies are so famous for. We dined at a huge banquet, ate a catered dinner at one of the host's homes, and had a third dinner at a wonderful "Eaton's Catalogue House" on a farm just outside the city. This was a house that was ordered out of the catalogue in the early 1900s and shipped in pieces on the train. When it got to the farm, it had to be assembled. The house was still in excellent condition and we dined on farm-fresh food, including homemade bread and butter. Mmm...

As a gift to the presenters, each of us received two pieces of beautiful art from talented Saskatoon students. One of mine was a wonderful portrait of me with a huge smile, drawn by Samantha in Grade One. The second piece of art was a detailed etching of prairie grain elevator by Benjamin in Grade Six. They are gifts that will find a place of honour in my home. Thank you, Samantha and Benjamin!

I will remember this conference fondly. I was sad to leave the people, but glad to come home to the sunshine. Even though it is mid-May, it was snowing in Saskatchewan! :-)


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