July 2012 Update
Year 7 of the Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Reading Camp is underway. The counsellor training started on a terrific note: Grand Chief Stan Beardy set the right tone at the beginning of the training when he spoke to the counsellors about the importance of the work that they’d be doing this summer. We also had elders to officially open and close the training camp and that was truly wonderful. This year, our Northern counsellors facilitated and/or joined in with the facilitation of the training, and that was fantastic. Also, NAN presented the counsellors with beautiful warm fleece hoodies which was generous of them and very much appreciated. This year, we welcomed two new communities: Mishkeegogamang and Taykwa Tagamou Nation. Last Saturday, more than 80 young counsellors flew north so that they’d be in their new location in time to join the local Canada Day celebrations. Camp has officially started!
The Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Reading Camps (LGASRC) program, managed by Frontier College on behalf of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, began as a pilot project in 2005.
In his travels around the province as its first Lieutenant Governor of Aboriginal descent, the Hon. James Bartleman witnessed first-hand the debilitating challenges faced by First Nations peoples living in reserves in Ontario’s northern wilderness: challenges such as high suicide rates, low literacy levels, poverty and crumbling public infrastructure. Recognizing the important relationships between literacy and mental wellness and literacy and school success, Mr. Bartleman established the Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Reading Camps as a means of empowering First Nations children and youth to overcome the challenges that they face. This amazing legacy continues to this day under the patronage of the current Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Hon. David Onley.
In 2005, the camps included the involvement of 5 remote communities. By 2010, the program expanded to encompass 28 Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) First Nations and 4 First Nations in Grand Treaty 3 in the north-western region of Ontario benefitting more than 2,300 children annually. Over 13,000 books were read over the summer: an average of about 6 books per child. Through interactive programming, the Camps focus on strengthening reading, writing and math skills and offer a wide range of activities including arts and crafts, sports, reading and games. The camps work to keep kids motivated and improve literacy skills by preventing reading loss that often occurs over the summer months. An added benefit has been the hiring of First Nations youth to work in the camps with their southern counterparts in which they learn important work and life skills.
At the launch of the LGASRC program in 2011, NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy said, “We are very pleased once again to be part of this incredible program and look forward to seeing the positive impacts it will have on the youth in our communities.” He continued, “Investments in education and literacy are key components in the early stages of a child’s development. Programming such as the Summer Reading Camps helps to provide greater possibility for our youth in attaining their goals in the future.”