If you haven’t got hold of a Word on the Street brochure (and if you’ve never been), you might not feel particularly inspired to go downtown for this festival. Of course if you already live downtown you’re good to go. You can visit their website for more information, or simply hop on the bus/skytrain and dive in. As soon as you arrive on-site do search out their 62 (!) page brochure and take a few minutes to orientate yourself. It’s an embarrassment of riches, as the saying goes, in terms of the broad variety of events. Here are just a few of the many events that will appeal to families and children.
Carnegie Centre: 401 Main Street
Until October 1st you can visit the third floor gallery to see the Hope in Shadows: Portraits of Our Community. These images are from the 10th annual photography contest in the Downtown Eastside. More than 200 participants contributed thousands of photos documenting life in the community.
Festival Central Mainstage on the steps outside of Library Square
Until 5:00 PM you can see a Vancouver Squeezebox Circle (accordion slam event), ukulele ensemble, take part in a Vancouver Hug Day event, hear a youth poetry slam, watch the Vancouver Youth Theatre and listen the the Upbeats (a group of drummers). Here at BCFamily we have an uncle who plays classical accordion and has played in an accordion orchestra. The effect of a group of accordionists playing together is electrifying!
Film Screenings at CBC Studio 700, Hamilton Street
Two films are being screened until 5:00 PM: Passage of Dreams: The Chung Collection and Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40.
Family Stage on Hamilton Street
At this stage you can find activities, music and story telling for families.
Family Literacy Tent on Hamilton Street
At this tent you can make collage buttons with Laura Bucci and carve an animal out of soapstone.
Kids Tent on Hamilton Street
Until 5:00 PM a steady rotation of 18 authors will read from their “published in BC” books.
Magazine Life Tent on Homer Street
At this tent there will be an interesting array of topics discovered covering everything from eating healthy on a budget to pinhole photography.
Word Talks inside the Library
At 2:00 PM you can learn more about writing a memoir and at 3:00 PM you can hear about oral story telling
The Word Under the Street, inside the Library in the Alice MacKay Room
Until 4:00 PM you can learn about the world of comics, cartoons and how to create comics and video game characters. The cartooning workshop from 1:00 – 2:00 PM will appeal to youth.
During the month that I graduated from high school, a friend of mine at the girls school I had attended wrote a letter to me. In it she shared a poem she had written based on what she had learned from our friendship. Recently I found it tucked away in a box of letters and decided to share it so that it can see the light of day.
The other day three new books arrived at our house by international post from the United Kingdom. It was such a significant event in our day that our toddler figured out how to tell us, later on, that the books had arrived in the mail. We retrieved the package and marveled again over how they had arrived. If there ever was a house that doesn’t need another book, it’s ours. We have book shelves and baskets all over the house. In our family room alone we have three book stations plus a book table.
You could say it’s not a surround sound, multi-media room but it is surround books.
This simple book basket contains delicate three part flip books, pop up books and larger books. It’s located on the floor where the children are always digging into it. It’s also located near their potty toilet so that they can sit on the toilet and read. Don’t worry about hygiene! Not much action happens on said toilet these days, but lots of reading takes place.
All of the board books are kept in this basket on the floor. It’s located in a line up of three baskets that are used to store toys and books. (The other two baskets have lids on them.) All three baskets are located on the floor by the wall. In the evening, after the children go to bed, the toys and books are tucked away and the adults can feel like they aren’t in a playroom. We purchased the basket for 75% off at the Bay in the days before our children were born. It’s never been put to better use. Eventually we will pass them along to another family or a local thrift store. The great thing about board books is that you can wipe them down and clean them up before passing them along. We use Melaleuca’s Tough and Tender to clean board books.
We keep a third stash of books in this leather container. It was purchased for 75% off at Sears and has turned out to be a great purchase as it can withstand a lot of use. It contains early Laura Ingalls Wilder stories, books about numbers and letters and poetry books, for example. We keep it near two child-size leather armchairs that our toddlers use.
The kitchen table has become a book table during the day and evening, when it is not in use. We place beautiful books, recent purchases or books we want to feature on this table. A solar powered owl presides over the books. As the children play with stackable In the Night Garden wood puzzles at the window sill, they stop at the table to flip through the books.
We also have a small container of books in their playroom downstairs and a bookshelf with resource books for mum. Another set of three shelves with hard cover books and other books is used daily. In our office there is also a shelf that contains early 20th century children’s books. Eventually the children will also have books in their rooms.
We are fortunate to have friends and family who either give us new books or pass along books that they no longer need. It also helps if you have a background in Montessori education and a large personal collection of books. Even if you don’t have this scenario going on, you can set up a book corner with a basket or book shelves and put a rotation of library books inside, along with any books you have purchased. Your set-up doesn’t have to be worthy of a Pinterest pin! Book Warehouse, grocery store bins, Liquidation Warehouse, garage and church sales and the second hand section on Amazon are great places to find affordable new or almost new books. At the library you can get books, magazines and even CDs and DVDs for children. We like to check out Puntamayo and French language music CDs from the main library in downtown Vancouver.
For the early reader set we like fiction and non-fiction books about numbers; letters; animals; how the world functions; flip books; books with textures and sound buttons; flap and sliding component books; pop out books; books about the naturalworld and animal kingdom, the life of children and families; and, poetry and spiritual books. We also like books about cooking, art and books that are written in specific parts of the world. For example we enjoy books written in British Columbia, the Caribbean, Africa and Japan. Some of our books don’t have any words at all and some are very old. For the most part the books have detailed, gorgeous illustrations that are realistic. A few of them are fantastical – such as Peter Rabbit books - but most are focussed on stories about real life. Many feature gorgeous illustrations of the natural world. Our favourite illustrators are Beatrix Potter, Jane Dyer and Satomi Ichikawa.
Since we have so many books around, our two year olds are constantly looking at the books, are excited about letters and about reading letters on the page. This has led to an interest in the computer keyboard as it is full of letters. Here is our two year old girl’s contribution which she snuck in while the computer was left on:
Aaah – Mary Engelbreit. What’s not to love about her vibrant, sweet illustrations? In recent years you might have come across copies of her “Nursery Tales” and “Mother Goose: 100 Best Loved Verses” publications. Either book makes for a perfect gift for a young child. You just might want to purchase a second copy for yourself.
Mary’s work first started garnering attention in the 1990s. Back in the day – when people still sent cards just to say “hello” – you might have received one of Mary’s cards in the mail. She produces thoughtful cards with memorable expressions, eye popping illustrations and matching envelopes. Much of her work is influenced by illustrations from the 1920s, 30s and 40s that featured quotes in borders. Englebreit also credits the inspiration she gets from her “idyllic and wonderful childhood”.
(Image from Mother Goose: 100 Best Loved Verses)
From the late 1990s to 2009, her funky, eclectic interior designs could be seen in the Home Companion magazine. The magazine reflected Mary’s philosophy that “it’s your house and it should be filled with the things and the colors that make you feel good.” Sadly the magazine was closed in the summer of 2009 due to a lack of advertising caused by the recession. At the time Mary wrote about her dream of resurrecting the publication. “We WILL find a way – this miserable economy can’t last forever. Anyway, even if times are tough, we still need to see magical things, right? We still need to know there are people out there producing fantastic things, creating warm and cozy places to live and providing us with the inspiration we need to keep going, for crying out loud! I mean, I love House Beautiful, but I can’t make one magazine last all month – we need more! We need variety! We need Home Companion!” Her website still features the many projects related to her work. If you want to bring Mary’s work onto your bookshelves or into your homes, there’s an almost endless array of possibilities.
Mary’s work is a folksy contrast to Martha Stewart and has a healthy dash of sugar and spice that is oh so nice.
Baba Brinkman was born in the West Kootenays – a beautiful and somewhat remote area of British Columbia- and grew up mostly in Vancouver. According to his biography he was raised in the midst of the province’s tree-planting sub-culture, which was founded in the 1970s by his parents and their friends. Baba planted trees for ten years, from the age of 15-24, and personally sowed over one million seedlings. The views and values of this culture – tribal, environmentally conscious, self-reliant, and pro-active - all continue to inform his life and art. He writes and produces Lit-Hop music that can be heard on local radio stations and holds a Master of Arts in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature. His research focussed on parallels between hip hop music and literary poetry. Brinkman is currently touring with his show The Rap Guide to Human Nature.
Brinkman’s song Social Contract is available for download online. In this Lit-Hop song he challenges some of the comfortable places and spaces where you can find Vancouverites and other socially conscious individuals.
The following is an excerpt from the lyrics:
This may sound ridiculous from a kid with hippie parents But sometimes it’s just hilarious how addicted we are To the idea that we should never be restricted at all But if freedom means drivin’ and S.U.V. And never havin’ to clean up the mess you leave Then I say we need to be less free I don’t expect you to agree, but you did listen at least So now you’re free to take this lesson or leave it Peace
The full lyrics for the song Social Contract will resonate with many Vancouverites. When you have a moment, check out Baba’s work online, his songs and The Rap Canterbury Tales, Brinkman’s latest book of hip hop poetry. You and your children will appreciate his intelligent and informed approach.
You think I haven’t gone through any hardships ‘Cause I was raised in communes instead of projects? That’s why I’ve always had problems with the opposite sex ‘Cause I was taught never to treat women as objects And never to treat anything simple as complex And vice versa, but I can’t remember what I was taught next See, that’s the problem with hippie kids They stop listenin’ when you teach ‘em not to listen to hypocrites But most of us still can’t appreciate the differences Between civil disobedience and criminal deviance It’s the difference between fixin’ a system and pimpin’ it ‘Cause corruption ain’t the same as honest work I try to separate the pigs from police officers And I can see nuances, ‘cause I was raised by philosophers But nuance isn’t popular, and neither am I My whole life I’ve been tryin’ to read between the lines And I’ve never been penalized for speakin’ my mind So freedom is mine; I’m a Scorpion And a Libra combined, with a fist and a peace sign On either side, and I’m just tryin’ to equalize
Sometimes freedom is violent; it gets derailed The system fails whenever freedom tips the scales When a sadistic freak is freed from a prison cell Or a big business victimizes people with its sales Some say we need chaos, but when a government falls Another one pops up; it’s like juggling rubber balls We don’t need more freedom; we need tougher laws Electricity should be double the cost With subsidies involved for those with no money It’s gonna be pretty hard to keep this show running If nobody believes there’s any room for change We need fewer cars and more commuter trains And new laws to make sure polluters pay For what they do to our food chains; these are the changes Institutions can make, if we just use our brains Instead of TVs and computer games
See, I’m all about change, but I’m not about the counter-culture Standin’ around with just a frown and a stomach ulcer Makin’ the occasional ethical purchase While dismissin’ politics as nothin’ but a nest of serpents As soon as you’re done talkin’, try runnin’ for office Try becoming part of something positive There’s really nothing stopping us; it’s just a problem of optics In the absence of reason; there’s no illusion of freedom The illusion is a lack of freedom, and we’re losin’ to these illusions But we can’t join ‘em; we have to beat ‘em And just because I’m gettin’ disillusioned with libertarians Doesn’t make me a disciplinarian We need different solutions for different areas From over-fishing the oceans to carbon emission tariffs From the Arab militiamen to the American Michigan Aryans We need some significant barriers This may sound ridiculous from a kid with hippie parents But sometimes it’s just hilarious how addicted we are To the idea that we should never be restricted at all But if freedom means drivin’ an SUV And never havin’ to clean up the mess you leave Then I say we need to be less free I don’t expect you to agree, but you did listen at least So now you’re free to take this lesson or leave it Peace
The one thing perhaps worth saying about the disappearance of poetry from public view is that we’re likely losing a way of understanding something about life that we don’t get from other linguistic modes, such as story, discourse or the language of science. (S. Persky reviewing “Vancouver: A Poem”.)
This week I received a surprise visit from a friend, her husband and child who were visiting for the day from Seattle. My friend came up to Vancouver in search of a poetry book by British poet Wendy Cope. If you are going to engender a love of reading in your child, I can’t think of a better way than to make an adventure out of finding a book.
Do you ever read those articles about a successful woman who empties her handbag in order to reveal the contents to readers? In one such article I read recently a busy mum who works out of the home revealed that she has taken to reading poetry because she can still maintain her love of literature, yet doesn’t have to worry about losing her way in the plot of a book that she can’t read for long periods of time.
If you happen to live in London, England, depending on where you are, poetry comes to you. Three times a year new poems are posted for the benefit of passengers on the transit system. The original project was started in 1986 by writer Judith Chernaik. A similar project has appeared on Vancouver buses, where every now and then you will see a poster highlighting the work of new poets. The archive of poems from the London project and the related books provide an interesting list of accessible poetry by new poets. On a similar track, the book Poems For the Day One (with a forward by Wendy Cope) provides a year’s worth of poems for consideration.
Poems aren’t just for English majors and the very young. Children of all ages and adults – like you – can enjoy poetry too.
Obra Inversa set W. H. Auden’s “Stop All the Clocks” to music.
If you go owling
you have to be quiet,
that’s what Pa always says.
I had been waiting to go owling with Pa
for a long, long time.
When you go owling
you don’t need words
or anything but hope.
That’s what Pa says.
The kind of hope
on silent wings
under a shining
If you and your children enjoy the sensitive depiction of a child’s discovery of the wilderness in “Owl Moon”, you will also want to check out the related audio and video versions of this story. When the children listen to this story, they seem to revel in the stillness that is created.
The Alice in Wonderland books deserve repeated scrutiny when you consider that the tales reference topics such as set theory, meta-language, Aristotelian logic, topography, game theory, several pre-Socratic logic paradoxes and even quantum physics. Despite mixed reviews, the Alice in Wonderland movie starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter generated a lot of interest. The movie appeals to and is appropriate for senior elementary aged children and older.
Around the time that Johnny Depp’s film was released, Tetley tea distribute a special edition of Alice in Wonderland tins of tea.
It turns out that Alice in Wonderland items and entertaining ideas are so appealing – the number of products featuring these images seems to be almost endless!
What are your children learning from their life experience?
By Pamela Chan
If your child could rewrite this poem, what would she say? Does she live with love, hate, anger, compassion, indifference, patience or irritation, for example?
What is she learning from these experiences?
How do our ideals as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles match the reality of our lived experiences with the children in our lives?
Vacations are a time for relaxation and renewal. When you return from a holiday, take the time to write down sentences (however few or many) that document what you like about your time together as a family, what you want to change and new approaches that you want to try. Keep these notes in a safe place and review them a few weeks or months after you are back into your daily routine.