Many people continue to be excluded from the reading experience in Canada, particularly aboriginal peoples. Reading statistics for Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis are much lower than for other Canadians. Financing for education and libraries within these communities is unstable, and at a much lower rate than the national average. (If you’d like to read more about the situation, see the Assembly of First Nations’ Call to Action on Education ).
The challenges are diverse and complex, and it is essential that any plan for addressing the issues come from within those communities. To that end, the National Reading Campaign is facilitating a series of three policy roundtables over three years. The roundtables will bring together aboriginal leaders in the field of reading to explore approaches and create an effective plan to promote access to reading on and off reserves for children and youth, and to create a much-needed common agenda to champion reading and reading policies for aboriginal children.
The first of these roundtables, ‘Aboriginal Readers: Opening New Worlds,’ was held October 27-29th, 2013 at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Author Richard Wagamese was the opening keynote speaker, and the impressive list of participants included Harriet Roy, Director of Pahkisimon Nuye’ah Library System; Ningwakwe Priscilla George, the founder of First Nations Literacy; Paul Seesequasis, Publisher of Theytus Books; and Sherry Campbell, President and CEO of Frontier College, among many others.
The second of these roundtables, ‘Aboriginal Roundtable II: Best Practices & Advocacy,’ was held at the Native Canadian Centre Toronto on October 27-29, 2014. The Roundtable examined ways to facilitate the creation of public libraries in Aboriginal communities and enhanced library services off reserves, what models libraries might look like on a reserve and how to advocate for these libraries and services in order to ensure greater access to reading and reading materials in Aboriginal communities. Speakers included Idle No More’s Sylvia McAdam, author Joseph Boyden, politician Bob Rae, Dr. Cindy Blackstock, and more. The entire event was filmed and the videos can be viewed here.
The final roundtable was held in Halifax on February 28-March 1, 2016. The focus of this meeting was centred around the creation of a National Aboriginal Library Association (NALA), which will be an advocacy group for Aboriginal libraries and librarians in Canada. It will provide advocacy, networking, policy development and training to Aboriginal librarians who are working both on- and off-Reserve. A comprehensive business plan was created for the establishment of NALA, which can be read here.
This initiative is made possible by the generous support of TD Bank, which has also published its own report on this issue: Literacy Matters: Unlocking the Literacy Potential of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
Read the presentation from our October 2013 Aboriginal Roundtable, Aboriginal Readers: Opening New Worlds.
For more information on the Aboriginal policy round tables, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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