"at your library" in the north island eagle: is your child ready to read?

In our local paper.

At Your Library: Is Your Child Ready to Read?

Kindergarten is a child’s introduction to school – but your children’s education begins long before they ever set foot in a classroom.

At The Library: Is Your Child Ready to Read?

Teachers and librarians talk about something called “reading readiness”. A child who is ready to read begins kindergarten set up for success. A child who doesn’t have reading readiness may begin school already struggling.

Here’s another way to look at it. Children who do well in school have more options, better life chances. How do children do well in school? By being strong readers. How do children become strong readers? By beginning school with reading readiness, then continuing to read throughout their school years. And how do children become ready to read? Through their parents and caregivers.

Helping your child become ready to read is not difficult. You may be already doing it without even realizing it. Here are five ways parents and caregivers can help children become ready to read.

* Talking *
Talking to your children, letting them hear your voice as you go about your daily life, helps children learn language – and language is a key to reading readiness. When your baby babbles to you, talk back!

If you speak more than one language, speak to your child in the language you are most comfortable with, the one in which you have the biggest vocabulary. Hearing lots of different words helps children get ready to read.

* Singing *
Singing and rhyming helps children learn the sound of words. Sing to your baby! Play rhyming games. Sing silly songs, or songs your parents taught you. Your children love to hear your voice.

* Playing *
Kids learn through play. Play helps children understand words and concepts. Children learn more when parents and caregivers join in. So put down your phone and pick up a toy!

* Writing *
When your child scribbles and draws, they are getting ready to read. All you need is a crayon and a piece of paper. Write your child’s name and help them copy it. Write the alphabet and sing it!

* Reading *
I saved the most important one for last. Reading together is the best way to help your child get ready to read.
When you read with your child, they learn what books are, how pages turn, what letters look like. They hear stories and associate those stories with the letters and words on the page.

It’s never too early! Parents and caregivers should even read to babies. Their growing minds soak up language. You can’t see it, but they are becoming ready to read!

I encourage you to read with your child every day. Make it part of your routine together, like brushing your teeth – but more fun.

Many parents struggle with reading. If you find reading difficult, reading with your child will improve your own skills, too. Your child will enjoy the experience just as much.

The staff at your library can help you find books that your child will enjoy. Enjoying reading together will be crucial to your child’s reading readiness.

Just for good measure, I’ll repeat what I said in my previous column. Children whose parents read to them do better in school – and children who do better in school have greater life chances. So when you read to your child, you are setting them up for success, in school and in life.

Next column: what should school-age children read?


in which two humans figure out how to make a yard safe for canines

We did it! We closed the gaps in our partially fenced yard, in a way that looks decent, was within our budget, and within our skill set.

First we researched online, and eliminated many possibilities.

Then we simplified the project by choosing the least number of gaps to close that would still give the dogs a nice-sized area to play in, and by not having a gate.

After investigating local options, we drove five hours round-trip to the Home Depot in Campbell River to buy materials, and visited an off-leash dog park while we were there.

And today, we put up the fencing in about two hours.

We are not at all DIYers, and we are all kinds of pleased with ourselves for doing this. Kai and Diego are even happier! Kai ran in crazy circles before settling down with a toy.

On the other side of the house, we closed off the deck. The deck plus some yard forms an L with the fenced-in area.

This is off the other side of the deck, the short side of the L.

When the replacement parts for our new wood patio furniture arrive, we'll be in business.

the troll that wouldn't die

He lives.

Those of you who go back a long way with wmtc will remember how this blog was the target of trolls, back in the heyday of the blogosphere, before Twitter and Instagram existed, before so many bloggers moved to Facebook. Social media evolved, attention spans got shorter, and the trolls eventually left wmtc. All but one. You know who I'm talking about. The one and only magnolia_2000, a/k/a Mags.

Mags has disappeared for long stretches of time, but he always returns. Allan says that Mags is addicted to me and will never leave -- that no matter how much time passes, we will always hear from him again. I am his obsession.

Recently he's revived his pathetic attempt at bullying. I can't say I understand it. Can he possibly think I care what some random wacko thinks of my life choices?? It is utterly bizarre.

Here are some recent gems from the boy. He doesn't like Port Hardy. He doesn't like Kai. He doesn't like where we shop. He doesn't like our rugs! Oh noes!

Here's a particularly wacky one from 2017. He's referring to earrings I bought on a trip 10 years earlier! Ten years!!!

I last posted about Mags in 2013; the comments on that thread are quite amusing. My long essay about the Harper government's citizenship guide (reprinted in shorter form on several other sites), plus the death of Henry Morgentaler, brought Mags around. Trolls are nothing if not predictable: Morgentaler is a Canadian hero, and Mags is a viscious anti, misogyny being the sine qua non of trolldom.

Nothing seems to set Mags off more than when we travel. The man follows along on wmtc and complains about our trips. Seriously.

At some point, Mags expressed sympathy when we lost one of our dogs! I find that the most bizarre comment of all. I guess obsessions are complicated.

* * * *

I've enjoyed documenting the trolls over the years. The phenomenon fascinates me, and the comment threads are always interesting.

2013: wmtc trolls are alive and as insane as ever

2013: special update for long-time wmtc readers

2012: a trip down memory lane with wmtc (not Mags)

2009: This was published in shorter form at The Mark as "The Trolls Among Us"

2007: open letter to a reader who hates me (also not Mags)

From 2005 to 2007, there are a lot of posts about troll attacks, tagged "wingnuts". Posts such as i am a fascist pig, i am a cowardthe welcoming committee, and begone foul spirit.


first bear sighting of the season

We see bald eagles every day here, and we've seen lots of elk -- but they never stick around for a photo. This little guy was munching away, and let us get some pics from the safety of our car. It was a beautiful privilege to see him.

No lectures on bear safety, please. I've never forgotten what I learned in Alaska. One bit from the ranger at Denali National Park has always stayed with me: "Bears are mostly vegetarian. They love berries, sweetgrass, and clover. But bears are highly intelligent, with unique personalities. A bear might wake up that morning and feel like eating meat. And you're meat."


"at your library" in the north island eagle: your library card: hidden treasure

I'm writing a library column for the local newspaper! I'm really excited about it. Everyone reads this free paper, so a column is an amazing opportunity to promote our services. It's also a fun writing challenge, to strip away the library jargon, appeal to a wide audience, and quickly write 500-ish words.

I've decided to post the columns here, too. Here's the first one.

* * * *

At Your Library: Your Library Card: Hidden Treasure

This is the first column highlighting what's happening at your local branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library, better known as VIRL. I'm super excited to have this space to speak to North Island residents about their libraries – Port Alice, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Sointula, and Woss – and I'm grateful to publisher/editor Kathy O'Reilly for this amazing opportunity.

Your library card is a treasure trove of resources and information. You know about the books, of course – millions of books for every age and nearly every interest. And maybe you know about the DVDs, as North Island folks borrow them in great quantities! You can borrow books and DVDs from all 39 VIRL branches, from Haida Gwaii to Sooke to Tofino and back again.

But books and DVDs are only the beginning. There's so much more going on at your library that you might not be aware of.

Do you know about Lynda.com? Lynda provides a vast array of professionally-made videos teaching technology, business, design, photography, and so much more. If you purchased Lynda online, it would cost you $26 per month. With your library card, it's free.

Did you know we offer Mango Languages, an award-winning language-learning program, featuring native speakers of more than 70 different languages? Mango costs $20/month online, but it's free with your library card.

Starting a business? Researching a career change? Helping your teenager make decisions about post-secondary options? Your library has an amazing array of resources to help you with every aspect of your working life. Whether you're just starting out, taking a new direction, or expanding your established business, we can help.

If you have internet at home, VIRL offers a long list of streaming services, giving you access to movies, documentaries, music, e-books, magazines, and more. And yes, it's all free.

If you don't have internet at home, come on in and use ours! It's – you guessed it – free.

If you're the parent of a pre-school child, your library is especially important for you. One of your most important jobs as a parent is reading to your children, which helps them learn how to read. Preparing your child for learning how to read, then keeping them reading as they go through school, is crucial to their success.

This isn't my opinion as a librarian – it's a proven fact. Children whose parents read to them do better in school, and children who do better in school have greater life chances. So when you read to your child, you are setting them up for success, in school and in life. Your library is here to support and guide you in this important job. I'll write more about this in the coming months.

By now I'm sure you get the point. Library. Lots of stuff. All free. But don't take my word for it. Come and see for yourself.

pupdate: ten things we love about kai

The yard is only partially fenced, so until we close the gap, Kai is tethered.
She doesn't seem to mind.

Allan, Diego, and I are totally smitten by this little munchkin. What a surprise, eh? In no particular order, here are ten awesome things about Kai.

1. She's housetrained. Through at least four foster homes and who knows what else, she hasn't had an accident in the house.

2. She loves toys. Kai always wants to have a toy handy. If she runs off to greet one of us, she first grabs a toy. If she's lying quietly, she wants to have a toy nearby. Tala was the same way, and this reminds us of T, in a good, not-totally-heartbreaking way. Final Foster Mom brought a bagful of Kai's toys, and they're all over the house.

3. She's discovering her boundaries. Can I stick my head in this big bag of dog food? Oops, guess not! Can I jump in bed with Mommy? Nope! If I sit, will I get a treat? Yes!

Kai has Serious Resting Face.

4. She's super affectionate and snuggly.

5. Her coat is feathery soft.

6. She's willing to respect Diego. They had one loud argument -- while they were on-leash, vying for who would greet me first when I came home from work. It was quite loud, with lots of teeth showing, and would have scared anyone who doesn't understand dogs. From our vantage point, it appeared that neither dog would back down. But now Kai defers to Diego and I don't think they'll fight again.

7. She loves her crate. For Diego's sanity, we're crating Kai when we're not home. We did the same thing with Tala and Cody. The older dog needs a break. When we're home, we leave the crate door open and often find her curled up inside.

This does not count as an eagle sighting.

Diego gives it a try.

8. She's a bundle of energy. Yesterday they had some time in an off-leash park, and she practically flew in circles, and showed no sign of letting up until we had to rein her in.

9. But not all the time. She seems to understand that there are quiet times when she shouldn't run around the house at top speeds.

10. She fits right in. It feels like she's always lived here.


outstanding customer service from wayfair.ca

Wayfair.ca has amazing customer service! Their selection is great, the prices are competitive, and they offer free shipping with orders of more than $75. But their customer service has sealed the deal.

We bought two lamps, replacing the lamps that were smashed by We Help Moving's ineptitude. The glass shade on one of the new lamps was scratched. The lamp had been tightly packed in several pieces, and I was dreading sending back the damaged part, or worse, the whole lamp.

Earlier this year, we bought a lamp from Ikea that arrived damaged. It was also a piece of crap, and we asked for a refund rather than a replacement. They sent us a postage sticker, and they had to receive the lamp before they would process the refund -- even though the damage was too extensive to re-sell it.

Wayfair shipped the new lamp immediately, and suggested we bring the damaged one to a thrift store. It was as simple as emailing them.

Our biggest purchase for our new place has been patio furniture. We decided to spend some money on a solid wood set and nice cushions. Some of the pieces -- the tabletop, and a few chair arms and chair backs -- had patches that seemed unfinished or improperly finished -- areas that were rough and discoloured.

We were on the fence about returning them. It seemed like so much work, and the replacements might be damaged, too. Finally we came to our senses and emailed Wayfair.

Wayfair apologized, asked a few questions, and asked me to upload photos. They shipped replacement parts immediately. They said we could dispose of or donate the damaged items, and suggested Habitat for Humanity might be able to use the wood. The replacement parts had shipped before I even read their email. They couldn't have been nicer about it, and the process couldn't have been simpler.

This outstanding customer service puts Wayfair at the very top of our online shopping list.


introducing... kai!

Our first meeting
Introducing Kai, the new addition to our pack, and Diego's new sister!

Kai (rhymes with eye) is small for us, about 30 pounds, a pit-mix with a "Staffie" look. She is much smaller than a Staffie -- unless her foster mom was very wrong about her age! We believe she is about 18 months old. Her coat is a dark brindle colour with a white blaze.

More than two years after losing Tala, Allan and I decided it was finally time to restore our full family, a pack of four. About a month ago, Allan found a Vancouver-based group that rescues street dogs from other countries. He sent me a few links, and I immediately chose a honey-coloured Shepherd mix living in a tough city in the Middle East. We filled out an extensive application.

While we were waiting, Allan went to the vet to pick up some supplies, and saw a flyer, looking for a home for Kai. (Foster Mom spelled it Kye. We changed the spelling but not the name.) I was already getting attached to the idea of the Shepherd mix. But, as Allan pointed out, in our area there are fewer options for Kai -- less of a chance that she would find her forever home. The other dog was on Petfinder so had a better chance. Plus, Kai is dark, and subject to the "curse of the dark dog". She's already lived in at least three homes, probably more.

Final Foster Mom
We drove down to Port McNeill on Monday to have Kai and Diego meet. Diego wanted to play right away. Kai was quiet and shy, although not afraid.

I'll be honest: she's not my favourite look for a dog. I adore Staffies, but I'm not a big fan of brindle. But who cares. She's sweet and wonderful and she's going to make us very, very happy.

We left and did some errands, then came back for a second meet. Kai wagged her tail and was happy to see us! Diego tried to get Kai to play. That's a great sign: he normally only plays with his packmate! Poor little Kai doesn't know how to play. Diego will teach her.

That second meeting went really well. Then, while I was at work, Final Foster Mom brought Kai to our house. Allan told me that Diego was desperate to play with Kai -- barking in her face, doing deep play-bows, really going at it. Kai ran around the house, drank some water out of Diego's bowl, picked up a toy, and was generally curious and happy. I believe Diego knows this thing is on.

Today was Kai Day! FFM brought Kai to us, along with whatever gear she's acquired. She had Kai spayed and vaccinated, and won't take any money from us. I love this pay-it-forward idea, as I funded an adoption a few years ago.

In 2011 we said bienvenidos to Diego. Now it's gilakas'la to Kai.

Can't you hear me barking?

Gypsy, November 28, 1987 - November 12, 1998
Clyde, October 21, 1989 - August 4, 1999
Cody, April 19, 1999 - August 24, 2010
Buster, December 14, 1999 - November 16, 2005
Tala, January 29, 2007 - December 29, 2016
Diego, April 26, 2011
Kai, April 3, 2019


rotd: frederick douglass, prophet of freedom

Revolutionary thought of the day:
Douglass's great gift, and the reason we know him of today, is that he found ways to convert the scars Covey left on his body into words that might change the world.

David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom
This is what every abuse survivor, every war resister, every Truth and Reconciliation testifier, is doing: finding ways to convert their scars into change.

It's been a long time since our last ROTD! This book is clearly going to change that.