Accomplished author David Bouchard visited Hay River last week to tell readers of all ages that literacy, although necessary, can be extremely fun.The award-winning Metis author, former school teacher and principal has published more than 50 books and travels around Canada advocating for good literacy practices by students, educators and everyone else.
Bouchard, who is from British Columbia, visited NWT Centennial Library, Princess Alexandra School and Chief Sunrise Education Centre from Sept. 10-11 before moving on to Fort Resolution and the remainder of South Slave.
This is Bouchard’s third visit to the region as part of a South Slave Divisional Education Council program to get readers and communities proactive about reading and literacy activities.
As a performer and storyteller, assistant superintendent Brent Kaulback said Bouchard fits the bill.
“He’s a fabulous presenter, but more importantly he lives the culture and he lives his stories,” Kaulback said. “That’s what we want for students in our board, to fall in love with reading and see the opportunities it can bring.”
It’s a wonder to think now that Bouchard struggled to read throughout his childhood and into his 20s. As he animatedly read from a number of books in front of a group of around 60 at Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River Reserve, he had both youth and adults engaged in his renditions of traditional stories from across Canada.
“He was a struggling reader growing up and, despite that, he’s been able to be very successful,” said principal Ian Patterson. “But he also demonstrates that literacy is more than reading. Traditional oral storytelling is a traditional skill of the Dene people.”
After thoroughly entertaining his small crowd by reading, acting out and playing a few tunes on one of his many wooden flutes, Bouchard told his personal story and doled out a few pieces of advice.
“When I was 12 years old, I (learned) I had short-range memory issues and dyslexia,” he said. “I didn’t read a full book until I was 27. I want you all to know that reading enriches your life, but TV, it just entertains. Remember that next time you sit in front of the TV, it’s entertaining you, but it’s not making you smart.”
In 1999, Bouchard tapped into a storytelling, art and written word method that he says allowed him to sell half a million copies of ‘If You’re Not from the Prairie’.
In 2009, Bouchard published an illustrated storybook about the seven sacred teachings that he says are universal in aboriginal traditions across Canada. It was published in English with translations in South Slavey, Chipewyan, and Cree – the South Slavey translated by local language instructor Dorothy Buckley.
Bouchard said he hopes to communicate, especially to young aboriginal audiences across the country, that success in reading is within their reach, and it often starts very early.
“Seeing an aboriginal person who makes a living reading and telling traditional stories that are applicable to them, that makes it accessible to them,” said the writer and storyteller.
— Angele Cano