Patti Wiseman has won a national award for her work teaching Teslin children how to read.
She’s just received the 2007 Council of the Federation Literacy Award for helping establish several Teslin literacy programs over the last decade.
“Literacy is the basis of everything,” said Wiseman at Thursday’s award ceremony.
“It doesn’t matter what you do in life, you need to comprehend what you’re reading.”
In 1996, Wiseman helped establish the Teslin Tlingit Daycare and was instrumental in the daycare’s expansion into the Early Learning and Child Care Centre a decade later.
As her children reached reading age, Wiseman discovered that Teslin lacked programs for developing reading and writing skills.
So she started her own.
“I’ve always been of the mindset that if we want something, then we need to go out and get things started ourselves,” said Wiseman.
The After School Reading Program, which brings together students to read to each other, is one of the more popular programs that Wiseman’s involved in.
Now there’s a waiting list of Grade 2 and 3 students wanting to stay after school a couple times a week to read to younger students.
It’s not hard to encourage reading and foster enthusiasm about learning in students, said Wiseman.
“If you set up a positive environment — and the older kids get to choose their own books to read to the younger kids — they’ll enjoy reading,” said Wiseman.
The community has been noticing a difference in how kids view education, said Wiseman, a long-time Teslin resident.
“I’ve had comments from kindergarten teachers who’ve said they’ve seen a difference in the enthusiasm about reading,” she said.
Premier Dennis Fentie presented Wiseman with the award in the foyer of the main government building.
“Literacy is the essential building block for a healthy society and economy,” said Fentie.
“Patti has made remarkable contributions to improving literacy in the Teslin area and she is making a difference each and every day in the lives of Yukoners.”
Wiseman’s Early Bird Gets the Worm program encourages children to attend school.
At the end of each month, Wiseman and her colleagues tally up attendance sheets and award a batch of cupcakes to the highest-ranking classroom.
Wiseman is also a volunteer with the Teslin Ambulance Service and helps run prenatal classes, the Aboriginal Head Start Program and the Teslin playschool.
She’s only one of several people running those programs, Wiseman is quick to note.
“This is definitely not a one-man show,” she said.
The Yukon has improved literacy rates because of people like Wiseman, Education Minister Patrick Rouble told the audience.
“The Yukon enjoys one of the highest literacy rates in Canada, and there’s something to be said about doing that in such a remote and isolated jurisdiction,” he said.
In 2005, Statistics Canada reported the Yukon, BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan had literacy scores above the national average in a major literacy study undertaken in 2003.
However, there is a lot of work to do to close the literacy gap between urban and rural and aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, said Rouble.
“Everyone deserves to use writing and reading skills to make a contribution to their families and the workplace,” he said.
The Council of the Federation Literacy Award is an annual national award given to one person in each territory or province.
It was created in 2004.