Amiskwaciy Academy is the latest recipient of the popular Kobo e-Reader, a unique eight inch by five inch tablet-designed electronic device that allows students to read books, check the meaning of difficult words and highlight sections specific to their individual needs and/or studies. The 25 e-readers, which were delivered to the school earlier this month by Frontier College’s Edmonton-based Community Coordinator, Azmina Navodia, come preloaded with more than 120 titles, about 20 of which are books written by well known Canadian Aboriginal and Native American authors, including Jacqueline Guest (“Lightning Rider”); Sylvia Olsen (“Catching Spring”), Richard Wagamese (“Him Standing”) and Thomas King (“The Inconvenient Indian”).
“We’ve been working with Frontier College for about two years now and it’s been a rewarding partnership from the beginning,”
smiled Amiskwaciy Academy Principal Fred Hines, who lauded the national literary organization for its work “with our students every Monday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. They help students of all ages in every core subject by providing retired teachers and university students who come in to read and help our students as they progress through the school year.”
Frontier College President Sherry Campbell said the partnership it has established with Kobo Inc., one of the world’s fastest-growing eReading services, has been a real boon for Aboriginal learners, many of whom can’t afford to buy the unit themselves.
“The program is designed for urban Aboriginal children and youth as a reading and learning aid,” explained Cambpell. “The e-reader can hold dozens of books and the units can be uploaded with new titles whenever the need arises. A quick touch of any word in the story brings up a dictionary that offers the meaning and pronunciation of that particular word without ever having to open a dictionary. It is a convenient tool and one that we believe will make reading and learning easier for those who use it on a regular basis.”
English teacher Roy VanHooydonk agrees. He introduced the new e-readers to his Grade 10 students.
“It’s an electronic device so that means modern-age and that’s what the kids are into these days – so yes, I think it could make a
difference,” he said. “It’s nice that the students have access to more than 100 titles in a compact unit that weighs less than a quarter pound. The Kobo is a practical unit and will go a long way to reducing our need to cut trees – and that is a plus for the environment. Hopefully the students will take to it and utilize it and that’s one of the things that we’ll be monitoring over the next few months.”
“It’s like a pilot project for us,” noted Hines. “We don’t know if it will be accepted and used by all the students but we are confident that it will make reading and comprehension a bit easier. With bookmarks and other features, students will find that the Kobo will be easier to access and handle than a traditional paperback book.”
Only two of the 24 students who got the first look at the Kobo units have had experience with them, one for just a few hours, the
other for a couple of weeks.
“It is a very useful tool,” assured student Bree Atcheynum, “but I like to read things like encyclopedias and other types of books of knowledge, so it will be nice if we can add some of these type of titles sometime. I’ll use it, but in reality if kids like a book they’ll read it no matter what the format; if they don’t like it, they usually won’t bother reading it thoroughly anyway.”
Kobo Inc. which is headquartered in Toronto and owned by Japan-based Rakuten was founded in 2009. Kobo eReaders can be
found in major retail chains around the world. Last September the company, a global leader in eReading and the Free The Children (Educating Children Who Need It Most) campaign, announced a year-long partnership focused on supporting literacy among Aboriginal youth in Canada. Both organizations share a commitment to making reading more accessible and both are working together to support literacy programs in Aboriginal communities across the country. Kobo has donated 3,500 of its award-winning Kobo Touch™ eReaders as well as $100,000 to develop a program designed to cultivate a love and passion for reading. The launch of the program included a 25-stop speaking tour that visited Aboriginal communities, schools and Friendship Centres throughout Ontario, Manitoba Saskatchewan and British Columbia. The tour targeted youth in Grades 5 through 12 and was designed to educate and enlighten students on the importance of education and literacy skills, and their role in building strong, empowered communities.
“Books not only enrich us individually by helping us explore our own ideals and beliefs, but they also help us express and celebrate our culture,” said Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis. “At Kobo, we are committed to getting more people to read more often because – as book lovers ourselves – we know the impact reading can have on helping people, families, and communities develop. Our partnership with Free The Children is designed to empower youth across Canada to become active in their own learning, develop their imaginations, and explore the world through the written word.”
Kobo offers more than 4-million eBooks, magazines and newspapers to millions of customers in 190 countries.
Frontier College is strengthening Canada’s social fabric by engaging and mobilizing volunteers to take action in the cause of literacy and learning. The College supports children and families, community groups and organizations in high-needs areas through training, workshops, conferences and volunteer placement. The organization recruits and trains more than 5,000 volunteers each year to work with thousands of Canadians who want to learn.
“Frontier College,” noted Navodia, “is Canada’s original literacy organization. In Edmonton, we recruit volunteers to work with learners in the various literacy programs. We screen and train all of our volunteers before they go into the community. For more information, to make a donation or to volunteer with Frontier College in Edmonton, call 780-487-4787 or 1-888-414-4787 or email [email protected].
by John Copley