On my last teaching day of the year, the grade two and three students at my school were treated by a visit from Lesley McKnight, author of the amazing collection of short stories called Vancouver Kids.
The three classes were all very familiar with the book and were delighted to meet Lesley and listen as she shared her writing journey with them and read a section of one of their favorite stories from the book: “The Bear Who Saw Lace Underwear”!
The book was written in celebration of Vancouver’s 150th Birthday. Lesley explained how she had really wanted to write a book about the history of Vancouver but one that had REAL kids in it. This was a challenging task as most of the history of Vancouver focused on adults. She explained how she spent many hours reading through history books in the VPL and searching through archives for stories about kids. Her book is written in the form of “creative nonfiction” – a way of combining true facts with imagination as a way of making them more interesting and exciting.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for an engaging way to teach students about our past and the history of Vancouver. The stories are all based on true events, follow in chronological order and are wonderfully engaging. (The grade 2/3 class I was working with cheered every time I walked into the class holding the book!) Students learn about Captain George Vancouver, Gassy Jacks, the Great Fire of 1886, the first engine to travel the CPR, the Avison family-who were the first caretakers in Stanley Park, just to name a few. After each story, Lesley includes a section called “What We Really Know” that includes some interesting background information. For those of you reading this who may not be from the Lower Mainland, there are also similar books about kids in different areas of British Columbia including: Island Kids, Northern Kids and Rocky Mountain Kids. (written by different local authors and all published by Brindle and Glass Publishing Company)
I loved this book because not only did I learn along with the students, but I found it a wonderful way to combine Reading Power strategies with Social Studies. I usually read one story per week and then had students respond to the story using a variety of different Reading Power templates. We also plotted the stories on a map and added each event to a timeline.
Lesley was a delightful author to visit with. She is passionate about her book and was so warm and interactive with the children. She encouraged the students to keep a journal and to remember their own stories. “Your day to day life is really important because right now, you are making history”.
Thanks to Lesley McKnight, the history of Vancouver has come alive for us and we now have real stories about real kids we can all make connections to!