In The Little Engine That Could, the Little Blue Engine chants “I think I can, I think I can” as she wills her way over the mountain. The same mantra drives Steacy Lee Collyer, ’85 BEd, as she climbs — and moves — mountains with Calgary Reads, the children’s literacy organization she founded in 1998. Collyer, whose efforts earned her an Alumni Award in 2019, does it all: volunteers in schools and provides literacy learning opportunities for parents and teachers. She also established a book bank that handed out 44,430 children’s books in the 2018-19 school year alone.
As for that Little Engine, Collyer believes every child should know Watty Piper’s classic by heart. For other books to add to your shelves, Collyer offers these five titles — three picture books and two adult reads about (of course) reading. “If I had one wish,” she says, “it would for everyone to read them and be reminded of why reading matters.”
A children’s picture book about the importance of speaking up, whether to announce a brilliant idea or to denounce an injustice. “I love this book, which reminds readers that the world needs us all to say something with words, art, courage and our unique voice.”
The Wall in the Middle of the Book
A young knight foolishly believes a wall protects him from the angry tiger, giant rhino and cruel ogre on the other side. But when crocodiles and rising waters threaten his safety, he realizes the wall may be separating him from those who can help. “We never know for sure what is on the other side of the ‘walls’ in our lives,” says Collyer. “Be brave and open to new possibilities!”
The Treasure Box
This unusual children’s book is centred around a treasure — the last remaining book from a destroyed village library — that accompanies a refugee family fleeing from war. It’s a story of resilience, the power of words and the importance of stories, Collyer says.
A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader
Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick
This collection of letters and accompanying illustrations reflects on the joys of reading and how books deepen the human experience. The letters come from the likes of Jane Goodall, Shonda Rhimes and Judy Blume. “[They are] an inspiring collection of reflections by lifelong readers who have lived extraordinary lives and hope to pass the gift of reading to the next generation.”
The Enchanted Hour
Meghan Cox Gurdon
Stories aren’t just for little children at bedtime, and this title looks at how reading out loud consoles, uplifts and invigorates at every age. “This book will transform your understanding of reading aloud in the age of distraction,” says Collyer. “It is an enlightening mixture of memoir and advocacy using science, history, art and literature.”
Collyer and other recipients were celebrated at the U of A Alumni Awards ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. See her bio and the full list of this year’s honourees.
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