September 20

Indigenous Resources and #SSPBOY Book Pairings

A selection of book pairings, combining Indigenous resources with the Surrey School’s Picture Books of the Year as well as an extension title.

Gifts from the Trees:See also Solomon’s Tree – Spalding, Trees – Lemniscates, If You Hold a Seed – MacKay, Our Tree Named Steve – Zwiebel, Giving Tree – Silverstein


See also The Name Jar – Choi, Granny and I Get Traditional Names – Aleck, My Name is Yoon – Recordist, Sarabelya’s Thinking Cap – Schachner

Power of Real Friendship / Social Media

See also Goodnight Selfie – Menchin, Tood’s TV – Proimos, Doug Unplugged – Yaccarino, Nerdy Birdie Tweets – Reynolds, My Two Blankets – Kobold

Facing Fears / Discovering Inner Strengths

See also: The Elephant who was Scared – Elliot, Little Mouse’s Big Book Of Fears -Gravett, Super Manny Stands Up – Dipucchio, Strong is the New Pretty – Parker

Being Inspired

She Persisted -Clinton, Rad Women Worldwide -Schmaltz, Come With Me-McGee, Jars of Hope – Roy,

Respect for the Earth

I am Canada: A Celebration, If Sharks Disappeared – Williams, Owl Bat Bat Owl – Fitzpatrick, The Salmon Run – Gauthier

Sharing Our World

Salmon Run -Gauthier, Discover the Animals -Simeon, Peace Dancer -Vickers

Learning to Soar / Embracing Who You Are

Owl Bat Bat Owl – Fitzpatrick, I Like Who I Am – White, Yo Soi Muslim – Gonzales, Things To Do – Maglairo

Perspective: Familiar Things in New Ways / Empathy

The Sharing Circle – Larsen-Jonasson, Are You Empathetic – Yankee, Zoom In


Birthdays In Different Places – McNiven, Armond Goes to a Party – Carlson, Party – Ried, I’m Invited to a Party – Willems,




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September 14

Creating a Core Competency Kindness Quilt

As part of our start up Kindness theme, students in the Learning Commons thought about how to be kind and created a display to share their ideas. some classes used Doodle Buddy app to show their thinking.

Origami paper from the Dollar Store made for easy display.

Grade 2 student gives a refresher tutorial on the features of the app.

Our Kindness ideas inspired by The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace


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September 10

Resources to promote discussion about Residential Schools #OrangeShirtDay

Our current and recently ordered resources to support discussion of Residential Schools in Canada. Synopsis provided by the publisher. Full list of Indigenous resources here.

The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.


Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous people has suffered as a result of both the residential school system and the lack of understanding of the historical and current impact of those schools. Healing and repairing that relationship requires education, awareness and increased understanding of the legacy and the impacts still being felt by Survivors and their families. Guided by acclaimed Indigenous author Monique Gray Smith, readers will learn about the lives of Survivors and listen to allies who are putting the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into action.


When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history, and, ultimately, one of empowerment and strength.


When Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school, she is confused, frightened and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite being told to do otherwise. When she goes home for summer holidays, her parents decide never to send her away again, but where will she hide and what will happen when her parents disobey the law?


Secret Path is a ten song digital download album by Gord Downie with a graphic novel by illustrator Jeff Lemire that tells the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School fifty years ago. Chanie, misnamed Charlie by his teachers, was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to return home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids—more than anyone will be able to imagine—he tried.


A collection truly universal in its themes, Dreaming in Indian will shatter commonly held stereotypes about Native peoples and offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media. Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing their hopes for the future, this book refuses to shy away from difficult topics. Insightful, thought-provoking, brutally and beautifully honest, this book is sure to appeal to young adults everywhere.


In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last days at home treasuring the beauty of her world — the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather’s paddle song. Her mother, father and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.


When they arrive at school, Shi-shi-etko reminds Shinchi, her six-year-old brother, that they can only use their English names and that they can’t speak to each other. For Shinchi, life becomes an endless cycle of church mass, school, and work, punctuated by skimpy meals. He finds solace at the river, clutching a tiny cedar canoe, a gift from his father, and dreaming of the day when the salmon return to the river — a sign that it’s almost time to return home.


Canada’s residential school system for aboriginal young people is now recognized as a grievous historic wrong committed against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. This book documents this subject in a format that will give all young people access to this painful part of Canadian history.


Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools. At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school. In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity. Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s collection and striking artworks from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl’s determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers.


Bestselling memoir Fatty Legs for younger readers. Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.


No Time to Say Goodbye is a fictional account of five children sent to aboriginal boarding school, based on the recollections of a number of Tsartlip First Nations people. These unforgettable children are taken by government agents from Tsartlip Day School to live at Kuper Island Residential School. The five are isolated on the small island and life becomes regimented by the strict school routine. They experience the pain of homesickness and confusion while trying to adjust to a world completely different from their own.


Traveling to be reunited with her family in the arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It’s been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers. Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely recognizes her, screaming, “Not my girl.” Margaret realizes she is now marked as an outsider. And Margaret is an outsider: she has forgotten the language and stories of her people, and she can’t even stomach the food her mother prepares. However, Margaret gradually relearns her language and her family’s way of living. Along the way, she discovers how important it is to remain true to the ways of her people—and to herself.


Margaret can’t wait to see her family, but her homecoming is not what she expected. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by evocative illustrations, Not My Girl makes the original, award-winning memoir, A Stranger at Home, accessible to younger children. It is also a sequel to the picture book When I Was Eight. A poignant story of a determined young girl’s struggle to belong, it will both move and inspire readers everywhere.


Amik tells Moshoom about his wonderful school. Then his grandfather tells him about the residential school he went to, so different from Amik’s school, so Amik has an idea… The Seven Teaching of the Anishinaabe — love, wisdom, humility, courage, respect, honesty, and truth — are revealed in these seven stories for children. Set in an urban landscape with Indigenous children as the central characters, these stories about home and family will look familiar to all young readers.


At six years old, Seepeetza is taken from her happy family life on Joyaska Ranch to live as a boarder at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Life at the school is not easy, but Seepeetza still manages to find some bright spots. Always, thoughts of home make her school life bearable.


Violet Pesheens is struggling to adjust to her new life at residential school. She misses her Grandma; she has run-ins with Cree girls; at her “white” school, everyone just stares; and everything she brought has been taken from her, including her name-she is now just a number. But worst of all, she has a fear. A fear of forgetting the things she treasures most: her Anishnabe language; the names of those she knew before; and her traditional customs. A fear of forgetting who she was.
Her notebook is the one place she can record all of her worries, and heartbreaks, and memories. And maybe, just maybe there will be hope at the end of the tunnel.
Drawing from her own experiences at residential school, Ruby Slipperjack creates a brave, yet heartbreaking heroine in Violet, and lets young readers glimpse into an all-too important chapter in our nation’s history.




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August 23

Resources for Discussing Social Justice in the Classroom

As we head back to school, it seems timely to share some important resources for generating classroom discussion on Social Justice and Empathy.

Titles cover topics ranging from discrimination, racism, human rights, diversity, gender identity, poverty, religion, refugees, residential schools, the differently abled.

Not an exhaustive list, these print titles are currently available in the Vanier collection. There are also eBooks available via the library catalogue.

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged – Jody Warner

Giant Steps to Change the World – Spike Lee

I have the Right to be a Child – Alain Serres

Across the Alley- Richard Michelson

The Secret of the Dance- Andrea Spalding

Maddi’s Fridge – Lois Brandt

Last Stop on Market Street – Matt de la Pena

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey – Margaret Ruurs

No Ordinary Day – Deborah Ellis

The Little Yellow Bottle – Angele Delaunois

We Are All Born Free – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Malala / Iqubal – Jeanette Winter

I Have a Dream – Dr. M.L. King Jr.

Four Feet, Two Sandals – Karen Williams

I Am Not a Number – Jenny Dupuis

When I was Eight – Christy Jordan-Fenton

Fatty Legs – Christy Jordan-Fenton

When We Were Alone – Robertson / Flett

Shi-shi-etko – Nicola Campbell

*More Authentic Indigenous SEL Resources here

Noni Speaks UP – Heather Hartt-Sussman

Not Every Princess – Jeffrey Bone

Time to Stand Up and Speak Up – Bob Sornson

Accept and Value Each Person – Cheri Meiners

What Makes Us Unique? – Jillian Roberts

Red – Michael Hall

One World Together – Catherine

Say Something – Peggy Moss

To This Day – Shane Koyczan

The Invisible Boy – Trudy Ludwig

*More books on Kindness / Bullying and Social Emotional Learning here

The Other Boy – M.G. Hennessey

Rain Reign – Ann Martin

George – Alex Gino

Ninth Ward – Jewell Rhodes

Rules – Cynthia Lord

Number the Stars – Lois Lowry

Brave Girl – Michelle Markel

Click, Clack, Moo. Cows That Type – Doreen Cronin

Out of My Mind – Sharon Draper

Anne Frank (GN) – Jacobson. and Diary of Anne Frank

Wonder – R.J. Palacio

Breadwinner Trilogy – Deborah Ellis

Those Shoes – Maribeth Boelts

Each Kindness – Jacqueline Woodson

A Lond Walk to Water – Linda Sue Park

I Am Malala – Young Readers Edition – Malala Yousafzai

The Hundred Dresses – Eleanor Estes

Crenshaw – Katherine Applegate

The Case for Loving – Selina Alks

The Most Loved in all the World – Tonya Hegamin

Boys Without Names – Kashmira Sheth

Henry’s Freedom Box – Ellen Levine

Gray Wolf’s Search – Bruce Swanson (Valuing individuals)

I Like Who I Am – Tara White

Mahatma’s Story – Libby Gleeson

Wanting Mor – Rukhsana Khan

I am a Taxi – Deborah Ellis

No – David McPhail

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne

Rose Blanche – Roberto Innocenti 

The Choice – Kathy Clark

Azzi in Between – Sarah Garland

The Sky of Afghanistan

Children Growing Up with War – Jenny Matthews

Torn Apart : The internment diary of Mary Kobayashi

Dreaming In Indian, Contemporary Native American Voices (Stereotyping)

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Hana’s Suitcase – Karen Levine

An Ocean Apart The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-ling

Underground to Canada – Barbara Smucker

Spirit Bear – Jennifer Harrington (Including others who are different)

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous- L. Newman

Mommy, Mama and Me – L. Newman

Jacob’s New Dress – Sarah Hoffman

10,000 Dresses – Marcus Ewert

I am Jazz – Jessica Herthel

A Family is a Family is a Family -Sara o’Leary

Stella Brings the Family – Miriam Schiffer

Worm Loves Worm – T.J. Austrian

As a Boy – Plan International

These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens

The Water Princess – Susan Verde

Out – Angela George

Kokomo Girls – Clare Morneau

The Journey – Francesca Sanna

Adrift at Sea – Marsha Skrypuch and Tuan Ho

Shooting Kabul – N.H. Senzai

The Red Pencil – Andrea Pinkney

Seeking Refuge – Irene Watts



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August 17

Reader’s Choice: Creating a Student-Centered Library

No one goes to the library to be prescribed a book. Allowing students to choose their own books helps create ownership – they are more likely to read them. When students ask for recommendations, I always point out at least five titles or a number of authors.

This doesn’t mean that I am not quick to suggest my favourite recent reads or new additions to the collection but time and again I see un-cracked books returned because the student took the book without buy-in.

Idea: I’ve been known to pull under-appreciated gems and add them to my shelving cart, where students sometimes gravitate to find popular books.


The time to get a new book is when you’ve finished the last one, not at 1:25 on Wednesdays. Ensure that the Learning Commons has frequent but not necessarily lengthy open-book exchange periods. Students will soon learn that the time is to be used wisely and it encourages students to look critically at their selections.

Avoid regularly scheduling upper intermediate classes for a whole class book exchange. The belief that it’s the only time they come to the library’ just doesn’t wash – if you build a collection with books they want – they will come.

The students that truly resist are likely not cracking the books they are forced to take out anyway – other, more individualized strategies are needed there.


Even though Melvil and I have basically broken up, Dewey did have one thing right…library books should not be levelled. Dewey’s system is the great equalizer – where students that struggle with reading would take out their non-fiction right beside everyone else.

One reader might benefit from the illustrations, another from the captions and a third from all the text cover to cover. Having said that, I do have a ‘Yellow Sticker’ section with beginner chapter books. We just don’t call them ‘Early Chapter books’ – they are simply the yellow sticker books. Yes, the students know, but it is less stigma.

Idea: Text Features are a must with any non-fiction. For more on this see my SlideShare on Elementary Non-Fiction Collection


There seems to be too much focus on helping students find that one ‘just right’ book. Rather, view the Reader as being on a continuum.

A developmental, trial and error process whereby books are sampled, a little absorbed, and exchanged – upgraded – to books that will hold attention longer. There is actually, no error in this process – each attempt brings the Reader more able to make critical choices and problem solve, and more able to narrow down the kinds of books that will hold interest.


You can bring in all the comfy seating, lowered shelving, open exchange you like but if the collection is not over-the-top high interest, the Readers will not come. Of course we all strive to develop a collection that reflects the diversity of today’s students but beyond that, what are the driving interests in your school community?

When I took over the library I could have been forgiven for thinking that the students were avid figure skaters, loved horses and were fascinated by Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In truth, they are none of these things. In our library, hockey, origami, humorous angst and Fantasy rule.

The non-fiction doesn’t have to cover everything. It can’t. It just has to be continually morphing to mirror the student’s interests. Build a collection where students are reading for information but perhaps more importantly, reading for fun.

Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back. Bye-Bye, Dewey. Hello, Chapters. I only have my intermediate fiction sorted by genre and it has made the world of difference. Circulation of novels went up, uncirculated books were discovered. Students love the arrangement.

It’s super easy for shelving and helping students find books during a busy exchange is much more streamlined: “Do you have any ghost stories?” “Why yes, check out the Supernatural section” Drops mic.


Reading reward programs, contests, district programs all have a valuable place in promoting reading. But to be sure, there is no substitute to encourage a reader better than the treasure of a well-matched book.

As students must have choice in what they read, prescribing books that may not suit their reading level or offering prizes in return for check marks, may help build the expectation of a culture of reading but it may not necessarily build Readers.


In the words of Elsa, ‘Let it Go’. Books will get damaged, chewed, drawn on and any number of things that must not be named. I’m all for students learning about responsibility but if the solution to a lost book impacts the ability of the student to be a Reader and the ability of the Librarian to teach, then the solution is, in fact, the bigger problem.

It is up to each Librarian how they choose to handle this ubiquitous issue and there are lots of creative solutions. I have an ‘Oops’ program that works for us and there is another one here. Being too much of a Book Warden can damage relationships.



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August 14

Picture Book Resources to support Personal Awareness and Responsibility and Social Responsibility Core Competencies (2)

Many of these titles will work in multiple categories, out-of-print or hard to find titles excluded. All titles currently available the Vanier Collection.

*See also Indigenous Titles to Support Personal and Social Core Competencies (1)

*See complete list of SEL resources

Personal Awareness and Responsibility: Self-Determination

Students who are personally aware and responsible have a sense of personal efficacy and growing confidence in a variety of situations. They value themselves, their ideas, and their accomplishments. They are able to express their needs and seek help when they need it, to find purpose and motivation and act on it, and to advocate for themselves.

Fuchsia Fierce – Christianne Jones

Bounce Back: Resilience – Cheri Meiners

A Tiger Tale – Mike Boldt

As A Boy – Plan International

Hooray For You – Marianne Richmond

Happy In Our Skin – Fran Manushkin

There’s No Such Thing as Little – LeUyen Pham

You Be You / Only One You – Linda Kranz

Feel Confident – Cheri Meiners

I Like Myself – Karen Beaumont

What’s So Bad about being an Only Child? – Carl Best

Sometimes Just One is Just Right – Gayle Byrne

There – Louise Fitzpatrick

Willow Finds a Way – Lana Bolton

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon – Patty Lovell

Giraffes Can’t Dance – Gles Andreae

The Dot – Peter Reynolds

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes – Mark Pett

I Have a Little Problem, said the Bear – Heinz Janisch

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do – Ashley Spires

It’s Okay to be Different – Todd Parr

We Are All Wonders – R.J. Palacio

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June 12

‘Only One You’ and ‘Everybody Needs a Rock’ Make a Perfect Pair

Students in Grade 4/5 shared Only One You by Linda Kranz and Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. Students sketched a draft picture of how they would like to show a part of their identity on a painted rock. During the next period, the rocks were painted and sprayed with lacquer.

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June 8

Cataloging Indigenous Resources: Alternatives to Dewey

Dewey unveiled his cataloguing system in 1876 and although it has seen many modifications over the years it still reflects the influences of it’s designer in a number of areas.

The ‘correct’ placement of resources that support the weaving of Aboriginal content in our new B.C. curriculum appeared limiting and somewhat divisive. In short, I would struggle to direct an Aboriginal student, curious about their living culture, to the 971 history section, sandwiched and segregated, somewhere between World War II and the Aztecs. Optics matter.

Despite my efforts at sorting and labelling, placing Indigenous Creation Stories next to Little Red Riding Hood in 398.2 Folklore and Fairytales seemed equally as jarring.

After consultation with Surrey colleagues Kim Perry; Teacher, Lynne Powell; Helping Teacher, Lise Tilden; Aboriginal Education, and helpful direction from Heidi Wood; Aboriginal Helping Teacher, I rearranged and re-catalogued to reflect what seems to be more respectful placements whilst still preserving the integrity of a workable comprehensive library.

Here are the highlights:

Creation Stories

These are considered to be non-fiction. When I am asked for a Space unit, I am pulling How the Raven Stole the Sun as well, so 523.7 is a logical choice. Similarly, How The Robin got it’s Red Breast goes in the bird section, Cloudwalker on the environment shelf, Mayuk with the bears.

Elder Stories

Includes stories that reflect true events or story of an Elder or the author. I have included here traditional stories as well as more contemporary works. The contemporary First Nations titles pictured below were designated Dewey 970 History of North America. I have placed them in Courage 179 and Wisdom 170.


Stories that are for entertainment or a teaching have been placed in Fiction. Some of the Txamsen Stories for example. However, some of these were not in a format or reading level that would work at our school in the picture book section. They are now in 813 Fiction.

 The labels are not ideal but they are easily identifiable. Titles that are not First Nations but are Metis or Inuit have a solid red label. Students are able to find these at a glance. Eventually,  I will have these labels only on authentic Aboriginal texts. I am still working through these.

The 970s

The biggest shift was the exodus out of the history section and involved moving all the non-fiction two shelves over. It seemed to me that even a book delineated as describing past traditions was, in fact, describing current traditions. It wasn’t history. I evaluated every book, weeded a few, and placed the rest in 305.897.

The 305s  – my favourite section – ‘Groups of People’ – the section we all fit in, in one way or another.

I am sure as we use this system, it will morph and evolve, resulting in an organization that perhaps more accurately reflects the community the collection serves.

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