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Literacy program draws kids to children's author

Timmins Daily Press Pinecrest Photo-160120

Pinecrest Public School teacher Michael Sloan was joined by Grade 3 students Damian Embleton, 8, and Emily Larocque, 8, on Tuesday as they participated in the Christmas Wind Project. The new literacy program is taking place at two schools in Timmins and has students listen to a story and then create their own accompanying illustrations.

By Sarah Moore

<<SEE MORE about The Christmas Wind Story Project HERE>>

TIMMINS – Grade 3 students at Pinecrest Public School began a new literacy program last week that encourages them to improve their reading comprehension skills through illustration.

Launched by children’s author Stephanie McLellan, The Christmas Wind Project is designed to help students learn to read by asking them to listen to a story and then to draw illustrations to accompany what they hear.

Bertha Shaw Public School in South Porcupine will also be taking part in the program and several classes at the school are set to begin the project next week.
The project is taking place around the country with one class participating from each province and territory in Canada.

When asked why she decided to organize the initiative, McLellan said she thinks it’s important to give children the chance to remember how to use their imaginations and to allow their creativity to flourish.

“Everything that kids access these days is Google-able, they don’t have to sit back and wonder and use their imaginations so this helps them to slow down and really listen to the words of the story and understand it in their own way,” said McLellan. “The challenge was to have these students listen to a story in the same way people used to listen to old radio shows and really try to use the power of visualization to imagine what’s going on in the story and communicate it through illustrations.”

Each school has been given exclusive access to McLellan’s unreleased book, Christmas Wind (which is set to hit the shelves in the summer or early fall) in order to complete the program.

McLellan divided the book up into sections and each school receives an interactive recording of each section every week. Students listen to the recording and are then asked to complete an illustration based on what they understand from the story.

“It taps a skill that kids aren’t necessarily asked to indulge in and the drawings I’ve seen so far, they’re just fascinating,” she said. “It’s cool to see what gets pulled out of their heads and ends up on paper, what they’re thinking and to connect with the people that my story is intended to impact.”

Michael Sloan, who teaches Grade 3 students at Pinecrest Public School, said he jumped at the chance to offer the program to his students.

“I always like to get involved with authors and to let the students engage with an author because we don’t often get to know much about them except for their picture on the bookjacket,” he explained. “I like the kids to have a connection with someone who created a book so it’s been a really neat experience. It’s also neat for the students to know that the author is interested in what they think as readers.”

Although he said the text of the book was a bit challenging to comprehend for some of his students, the overall experience so far has been successful.

“For some of them, it was a challenge but certain parts of the book just really spoke to them and that’s what Stephanie said, to focus on what speaks to them, so it went really well,” he said.

The exercise comes as the second part of a three-phase project that began at Christmas when McLellan donated a copy of another of her books, Hoogie in the Middle, to all six schools in Timmins.

She was inspired to donate the book after hearing stories that her husband Jeff McLellan, who grew up in South Porcupine, told her about the Schumacher Christmas Giveaway and how it inspired him to read.

Knowing how much of an impact the giveaway had on him as a child, and how important it was to give back to his community was what prompted her to bring the project to Timmins.

After the Christmas book donation, McLellan then offered the schools the opportunity to take part in the Christmas Wind initiative.
When the program commences, McLellan is also planning to visit the students in Timmins in person sometime in April to discuss the project and share their thoughts on the process.

See more about The Christmas Wind Story Project HERE

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