COLUMN: We’ll miss you, Joanne Harris

It’s an exceptional person who can start the day with the Isty Bitsy Spider and finish with The Hunger Games.

Joanne Harris at the Community Literacy Awards last year. From left

Joanne Harris at the Community Literacy Awards last year. From left

It’s an exceptional person who can start the day with the Isty Bitsy Spider and finish with The Hunger Games. When it comes to teen and literacy services coordinator Joanne Harris, it makes some sense: many of the teens who populate the library’s TeenScene first met Joanne during her Mother Goose sessions.

Joanne is retiring, and there’s nothing itsy bitsy about that, as generations will attest. Joanne has not just been an exceptional advocate for literacy, she has changed lives.

Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy community literacy coordinator Joan Exley first met Joanne in the 1990s, when her now nearly grown-up kids were babies. “Joanne has been committed to literacy for as long as I’ve known her,” she says.

Joan trained as a tutor when Joanne led Project Literacy West Kootenay. The two sat on literacy committees together and plotted ways to encourage love of reading in people of all ages. Parent Child Mother Goose, a place for caregivers and babies to learn songs together, was begun to fill a community gap in those early days.

Mrs. Mother Goose, as Joanne grew to be known, Roly-Polied her way into the hearts of everyone. Retired public health nurse Pat Gibson, who took the Mother Goose training with Joanne, brought her grandson to Joanne’s very last program. “Joanne’s dedication in supporting young parents was still obvious,” Pat says. “She paid attention to each and every parent and child, could pull out of a hat an appropriate rhyme and action, and keep us having fun.”

Nicole Cameron first met Joanne when she brought her baby to Mother Goose in 2004. Then new to Nelson, Mother Goose is where Nicole met other families, forming lasting friendships. Nicole’s positive experience led her to become a part of the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy and facilitate Mother Goose herself.

“All those songs and rhymes have been handed on to the parents in our community,” she says. Now, Nicole sees the effects with her pre-teen daughter, “a prolific writer, full of imagination and language.” Nicole will carry on the Mother Goose tradition, and “as long as I’m facilitating Joanne will be there with me, reminding me — with a twinkle in her eye — about all the important stuff.”

A library staff member since 1985, Joanne began doing Mother Goose with children’s services coordinator Nancy Radonich as a partnership with CBAL, where “we bounced, rocked, and tickled our way through many babies and toddlers. We’ve laughed and cried together. For the sake of literacy we’ve roamed the schools on International Literacy Day stamping kids’ hands with the word READ.”

From the Reading Buddies Program, which saw Nelson Leafs hockey players help kids with reading and numeracy skills, to the A-Book-Under-Every-Tree initiative, for Joanne it’s always been about bridging gaps and building community. “Teens can be a tricky audience, but Joanne has created a vibrant teen program,” says chief librarian June Stockdale. “She encouraged the teens to lead, allowing them to share their unique talents and develop leadership skills.”

One mother of a teen concurs. Her son struggles making connections with peers because he has Asperger’s Syndrome. “A couple of years ago Joanne let him take the reins of a Wacky Wednesday program, turning it into a Magic, The Gathering card game tournament. The experience was a huge boost to his confidence in interacting with other people. I’ve always been grateful to Joanne for giving him that opportunity.” For other teens, Joanne’s insightful book suggestions kept the pages turning.

In the last couple of years Joanne earned the handle of Grandma Goose thanks to a new generation of wee ones in her own family. She’s also earned a Community Literacy Award, to be awarded on Family Literacy Day on Monday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. at CBAL, lower level of city hall. It’s a way to honour the way in which Joanne has always “held the ideals and philosophy of literacy close to her heart,” says Joan, who will present the award for CBAL.

No doubt there will be representation from the generations of readers that Joanne has touched, not many dry eyes — and possibly a round or two of Roly Poly for fun, and for the love of literacy.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Fruitvale woman charged with impaired driving in 2019 crash that killed 2 teens

A 15-year-old boy and 18-year-old woman, both from Fruitvale, died in the crash that sent the vehicle into the river

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

L-R: Kootenay Co-op general manager Ari Derfel, grocery manager Erin Morrison, and security guard Akshay Sharma. The Kootenay Co-op has hired a security company to protect staff from abusive customers who don’t wish to wear masks. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Mask acceptance varies between different business outlets in Nelson

A small percentage of shoppers have tried flouting the rule, and Kootenay Co-op has hired a security guard.

Aaron Pasacreta (left) and Lillian Euringer are this year's recipients of the Doris Bradshaw Bursary. Photo: Submitted
Aaron Pasacreta, Lillian Euringer named Doris Bradshaw Bursary winners

The annual award is presented by the Amy Ferguson Institute

Crews retrieved the overturned commercial truck from the crash scene on Friday, Nov. 20. Photo: Betsy Kline
UPDATE: Kootenay woman dies in Genelle collision

The incident occurred Thursday, Nov. 19.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

Most Read