Friday, May 25, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

Emily Included, by Kathleen McDonnell, 124 pages.

Emily Eaton, a 12-year-old girl, wanted to continue attending her regular neighbourhood school instead of transferring to a school for disabled children.
Born with cerebral palsy, Emily used a wheelchair. She could not control her arm or leg movements, and it was a challenge for her to communicate with others. Nevertheless, Emily wanted to be a normal kid as much as possible - which included attending a regular school and being in a normal classroom.
For two years, Emily had been attending such a school and had enjoyed being there, making many friends and learning new skills. The other students had benefited too, learning to be comfortable and helpful around someone who had special challenges.
Now, school board officials had decided that Emily, despite her wishes and those of her family and the other students, would transfer to a “special” school.
Emily's parents decided to contest the decision.    
Emily Included is based on a true account of a young girl’s four-year battle not to be forced out of her school – a case that the family fought for the sake of every child with a disability. It was a case that went right to the Supreme Court of Canada, and it was watched closely by disability groups all over Canada. Many considered Emily’s situation to be discriminatory and in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which defends the right of every individual to be treated equally “without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, or mental or physical disability.”
Emily’s inspiring story is one of determination, and readers will be happy to discover that she and her family were, in the end, successful in their pursuit for Emily’s rights to equality and inclusion.  Photos of Emily and her family are included with her story.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 12 years. 

Shannen and the Dream for a School, by Janet Wilson, 206 pages.

Shannen Koostachin was another young Canadian who fought for the right to attend a “normal” school.  
The remote northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat, home to about 2000 people, is situated at the mouth of the Attawapiskat River on the west shore of James Bay.
For years, Shannen and the other children of Attawapiskat had been hoping for a new school to replace their cold, overcrowded portable classrooms. In Shannen’s classroom, the day’s lessons didn’t begin until an old scarf was stuffed into the gap below the door against the frigid outside air that crept in everywhere. Students wore their coats and boots throughout the day.
Shannen loved learning – but not in the discomfort of the portables. Why couldn’t her community have a regular school – with a gymnasium, safe water, heated classrooms and hallways - as government officials had long ago promised? Didn’t they care that education is a key to surmounting the many problems faced by communities such as hers (such as high student dropout rates, unemployment, loss of hope for the future, depression, suicide and substance abuse)?
Shannon, her family, friends and community decided to act. They made a YouTube video. They traveled to Ottawa to speak to politicians, and their cause – that all children, including First Nations children, deserve an education - garnered national attention. When Shannen and her fellow student ambassadors went to the United Nations, the Attawapiskat School Campaign became the largest child-led children’s rights movement in Canadian history – and it finally met with success.
The new school in Attawapiskat, with a playground and athletic fields, is scheduled to open in 2013.
Tragically, Shannen will never see the new school. Returning from a trip to Ottawa in May 2010, she was killed when the minivan in which she was a passenger collided with a transport truck.
The touching story of Shannen and her dream is a true story, and author Janet Wilson has included a glossary of Cree words, a timeline and other helpful background information.
** Recommended for ages 9 to 13 years.

These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on May 24, 2012. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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