By Keisha Mair
In an age of electronic distractions, finding people who love to read books, especially among the young, seems increasingly rare. But a recent visit to Wilkinson Public School, an elementary school in the Danforth neighbourhood, revealed that modern bibliophiles are alive and well.
We sat down with three students, Meleah, Anthony, and Ailie to discuss their most recent reads. Meleah is in grade five and the others are in grade six. All three are active in sports; Meleah is a fan of volleyball and swimming; Ailie, figure skating and soccer, and Anthony is an avid hockey player who practices four times a week. They also have great senses of humour and can riff on each other with ease.
Ailie’s summer book choice is a fascinating, true life story about the true friendship that develops between two pen pals from Canada and Uganda. Herb Shoveller’s Ryan and Jimmy tells the tale of Ryan, a young humanitarian who commits much of his time, energy and money to helping build wells in developing nations around the world, starting in Uganda. Ailie gets so caught up in the storytelling and the story that she jumps up, book in hand, and asks Meleah to read an excerpt so that everyone can “see what they think.” Meleah reads for the next five minutes and the story is so engrossing that Anthony suggests they swap books. If other people were as responsive as Anthony, perhaps they would be inclined to spend more time with paper instead of pixels.
Anthony’s book choice is Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. His recitations of funny anecdotes, like the “cheese touch” that results from a forgotten piece of cheese that fell out of someone’s sandwich and now resides in a corner of the school basketball court, are hilarious and really bring the book to life. He’s read all the books in the series so far and he’s looking forward to the next one. “It’s a really funny book, random but funny.” Meleah pipes in that it “probably has no learning purpose” to which Anthony responds, “but that’s the best part!”
Meleah introduces her book With Nothing But Our Courage: The Loyalist Diary of Mary MacDonald by Karleen Bradford, an entry in the Dear Canada series. She recounts the story of a girl who moves from New York to Quebec in the post-Revolutionary War period. “It’s like a true story but this isn’t a real person…the person that made it did a lot of studying about this time and then they wrote a story about a girl.” Meleah has read many stories in the Dear Canada series and rattles off a lengthy list of titles. The book about les filles du roi, a group of approximately 800 women sent to New France to marry the men who had already settled there, was the only book in the series that failed to live up to her expectations, and Meleah fake-snores to show her dissatisfaction.