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Nurturing a love of reading in Indigenous youth

On a warm July day at Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwest Ontario, a group of about 40 children are buzzing with excitement as they await the turning of the page of a colourful book.

A Moose Cree student was all smiles during a recent Reading is Cool event at the local school.
A Moose Cree student was all smiles during a recent Reading is Cool event at the local school.

Smiling along is Denise Hardy, Indigenous Relations Advisor with OPG, who has the kids listening in rapt attention as she reads The Legend of Rock Papers Scissors by Drew Daywalt.

It’s a scene that has played out several times before at OPG-hosted “Reading is Cool” events with Frontier College. The events are an extension of OPG’s support of the Lieutenant Governor’s Indigenous Summer Reading Camp Program operated by Frontier College, Canada’s original literacy organization.

“For children living in these remote communities, access to programs and materials is very limited so it’s a great opportunity to connect with the kids and share our love of reading,” said Hardy.

Founded in 2005 by the Hon. James Bartleman, Ontario’s 27th Lieutenant Governor and a member of the Mnjikaning First Nation, the program was first held in five remote First Nations in northern Ontario. It has since grown to nurture a love of reading, writing and learning in thousands of children and youth across Canada, including youth in 24 host communities in Ontario.

Sue Prince, OPG Indigenous Relations Advisor, with a student from the Moose Cree community.
Sue Prince, OPG Indigenous Relations Advisor, with a student from the Moose Cree community.

This summer, OPG proudly supported camps in the communities of Wabaseemoong and Moose Cree First Nation. At the OPG-hosted “Reading is Cool” events, representatives hold fun activities and provide each camper with a new age-appropriate book and school supplies. They also mentor campers in their literacy activities.

At Wabaseemoong, OPG’s Hardy was joined by nine other staff members as they set up a barbeque lunch for the children and community members at a local school. Children assembled in a gym where they acted out the roles of a hydro station and transmission lines to learn how power is generated and delivered. Before they left, the OPG team donated their barbeque grill to the school to replace an old and broken down unit.

“The vice principal of the school was very thankful for that,” Hardy said.

Meanwhile, Sue Prince, an OPG Indigenous Relations Advisor, along with three other OPG staffers flew to Moose Factory in northeastern Ontario in July to visit the Moose Cree community. They were greeted by children aged five to 15 at the Delores D. Echum Composite School. Staff members talked about their careers at OPG, read books and played word games with the students.

OPG staffers with students from the Moose Cree community. This summer, OPG proudly supported "Reading is Cool" camps in the communities of Wabaseemoong and Moose Cree First Nation.
OPG staffers with students from the Moose Cree community. This summer, OPG proudly supported "Reading is Cool" camps in the communities of Wabaseemoong and Moose Cree First Nation.

Chief Marvin Cheechoo and Councillor Candace Linklater joined in the afternoon fun and expressed how happy they were with the Reading is Cool program.

Eighty-five per cent of teachers and educators surveyed by Frontier College on the program noted that students who attended the camp maintained or improved their literacy skills compared to students who did not take part.

“We emphasized with the children the importance of staying in school and expressed how impressive their school was with all of the culture and history that was evident in the hallways and classrooms,” said Prince, who also talked about the importance of OPG’s relationship with Moose Cree and the significance of their partnership on the Lower Mattagami River hydroelectric project.

“It was a great community event that brought everyone together.”