Youth Book Corner: February 2020

Our Outreach Coordinator, Leena Desai, discusses the Writers in the Classroom program and looks back on Indigenous author Brett Huson’s visit to Lord Strathcona Elementary in October 2019.

The Vancouver Writers Fest’s Writers in the Classroom program takes 10-13 authors in spring and fall to schools in Metro Vancouver to talk with students about reading and writing. These visits are coordinated—and hosted—at no cost to the school. During the visit, authors read from their work, discuss their writing process and chat in an intimate setting with up to 60 students for one class period.

In fall 2019, Gitxsan writer, illustrator and photographer Brett Huson was one of 10 authors doing school visits. Huson is the author of the Mothers of Xsan series of picture books that vividly capture the fauna that resides in and around the Skeena River in Northern British Columbia. Featuring beautiful nature illustrations by Natasha Donovan, Indigenous line art by Huson and interspersed with Gitxsan words, these books explore how the animals, water, soil, and seasons are all intertwined and the need to preserve the fragile ecosystem that sustains everything.

Huson visited Lord Strathcona Elementary in Vancouver and presented in front of 50 students from grades four to six for two hours. Before Huson’s visit, the class teacher, Bronwen Keddie had ensured that students had read the books and were familiar with the content. Huson started the presentation by showing the students slides that served to introduce him and the Mothers of Xsan series. He spoke at length about concepts such as environmental stewardship and the need for humans to respect all the creatures we share the land with. Several students had questions for Huson related to his writing process, the place he comes from and specific details from his books.

After the Q&A, students gathered around Huson, sitting on the floor for an old-fashioned session of storytelling. Huson read the first book in the Mothers of Xsan series, The Sockeye Mother, which deals with the salmon life cycle and how it impacts the land and forests that the Skeena River runs through. A natural storyteller, Huson had the rapt attention of the students, much to the delight of their teacher who later sent a glowing testimonial to the Writers Fest saying, “The students were entranced by Brett Huson’s scientific explanations of this land and the creatures we share this land with.  They had so many questions and were so engaged in the conversation that I think they could have spent all day learning like this.  They adored listening to Brett read his book and explain the cultural significance behind certain ideas as well as the use of his mother language in the book. Thank you so very much to Brett Huson, the Vancouver Writers Fest, the Writers in the Classroom program and all donors who help support this program for giving us this opportunity for such rich learning.”

For more information on the Writers in the Classroom program, visit here.


Leena Desai