Students from Minnewasta School and Maple Leaf Elementary in Morden eagerly engaged with guest author of books found in their school libraries, Christy Jordan-Fenton who currently lives in Fort St John BC.   

Fenton cowrote four books with her children's grandmother, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.          

"The first book was "Fatty Legs" that we worked on, and that came out of when she told me one day they used to call me 'Fatty Legs.' She went on to tell me about when she was just eight years old, she wanted nothing more in the world than to learn how to read, but there wasn't a school where she was at. So, unlike many children who were forced, she asked to go to the residential school. And when she got there, she got stuck there for two years, her biggest bully was a nun who made her wear bright red stockings at a school where everyone wore uniforms that were not red."  

The book shares how she found a clever way to get rid of these red stockings and how she was her own hero at school.  

Christy Jordan Fenton

"Fatty Legs" and "When I was Eight" tell the story of Margaret's time in residential school while "Not My Girl" and "A Stranger at Home" tell the story of her return home. 

"It's very strengths-based, talking about residential school. So, talking about how Margaret was her own hero at the school, but also connecting that to experiences, safe experiences, children have had. Many of the children in the classes, I'm speaking to, started for their first school not speaking English, like Margaret, and have examples like that where they can connect to her story in safe ways." 

Fenton explained the goal of her visits to schools. 

"What Margaret always hoped about her sharing her story is that children who are going through a hard time, have a belief that they can believe in themselves. That they can make it through that hard time, and that they can have a great life as they get older and do all the things that they dream to do."  

She added, while we all want to believe all children come from great homes, the reality is some children came from difficult circumstances in another country and some have difficult lives here in Canada. And it is good for them to hear the story of someone who has gone through a difficult time too. To give them hope, there is light on the other side. 

Western School Division Literacy Coach Darlene Keith said having an Indigenous component to I love to Read Month is part of the work the division to move forward and to have some healing happen and to build some understanding. 

Literacy Coach Darlene Keith introducing the guest speakerLiteracy Coach Darlene Keith introducing the guest speaker, Christy Jordan Fenton.

Keith also reinforced this message, noting storytelling starts before children can read and that everyone has a story to tell. Margaret's story is one of being her own hero and of determination and determination is important in building character. 

This was not Fenton's first visit to Morden; she had enjoyed a visit to École Morden Middle School last fall and was really moved by the deep conversations she had with the students in November. 

"I was really excited to come back. It's a very friendly, welcoming community. I don't come from a super big community, so it's nice to be in a place like Morden and this morning was fabulous. The children, even though they're quite young, they did cater for, had unbelievable questions. They were very switched on."  

Fenton said she really likes I Love to Read Month. She can think of no greater way to build empathy than through stories, and books are one of the great ways to share stories and for children to travel to places around the world and to see different perspectives from different points of view without having to leave the classroom. 

Christy Jordan Fenton holding her books.