Gibbons Leaves Lasting Impression

2013_14_LCCReads_AlanGibbons_051On October 22 and 23, LCC was lucky enough to have a special guest at the school, Alan Gibbons. (See photos) He was the author of the summer reading book, Caught in the Crossfire, an emotional tale about racism against British Muslims in England, filled with love, action, and the tragedies of hatred. For most students, the first time they saw the author was at Tuesday’s assembly. The assembly started off with a speech by our headmaster, about the importance of reading, of critical reading, in an information age (and misinformation age, as he pointed out). Mr. Moore also spoke about the success of the LCC reads committee, and the importance of reading bringing people together.


When Mr. Gibbons got up to speak, there was a silence in the room. Of course, the students knew his books, and that he was quite an accomplished author, but wondered what he would talk to them about. He spoke quickly, and said a few words in French, before delving into his story, and the importance of overcoming hatred and intolerance. His humour soon got the entire assembly into his presentation. He was from ‘the good part of England’, and had spent many of his younger years abroad the hippie fad train, traveling around Europe and seeing the world. When he met his current wife, however, it was time to settle down. He became a teacher, and divided his time between writing and spending time with his students.


One day, however, a secretary rushed to deliver some news. “School secretaries, you know how they just glide around the school? Well she was running! I knew something was up at that moment.” He had been nominated for the Blue Peter award, one of the most recognized literary awards in Britain! It was a great shock to him, being a somewhat unknown, and little successful author at the time. He decided that he would win the award, no matter whom he was up against. Then, he found out who his competitors were. He was up against some of the most famous authors in England, including Harry Potter author, JK Rowling. “I was just looking at these other authors and thinking ‘I’m not worthy’!” To his surprise, however, he won the award!


And so started his career as an author – his full-time career. For him, writing was the way that one could visit places, hundreds of years after they have been destroyed. It was the only way you could live a life that wasn’t yours. Buildings are burned down, eras are ended, but writing survives. Storytelling was passing values and morals down from generation to generation.


This became his goal, spreading values to all of his readers. He spoke about how this was important, not only in Britain, but in Quebec as well, where our Premier, Pauline Marois, is attempting to remove the religious freedoms of public sector workers. Now, more than ever, is it important to raise our voices against hatred and discrimination.


His speech most certainly impacted every person in the audience, and soon a line was forming to ask questions, many of which were about his personal quest to spread tolerance.


After, the LCC Reads committee was fortunate enough to meet with him, get their books signed, and discuss Dr. Who over a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Throughout his visit, he went to various English classes, prompting the students to write stories, and talking to the class about his visit.


Though his visit is now over, we’ll all keep what he said with us forever. We are truly fortunate to have had such an amazing guest author, for a full two days. – Elizabeth O’Meara ’15

The Relevance of Caught in the Crossfire

2013_2014_LCCReads_AlanGibbons_012LCC Reads is a vibrant student committee dedicated to promoting a love of reading and the power of ideas. Thanks to this group of students, we had a special guest in our Middle/Senior School assembly this week. Alan Gibbons is an award-winning British writer and author of this year’s LCC Reads book, Caught in the Crossfire. His presence reflected our tradition of going an extra step and bringing the author of our annual community book to school to speak to students face-to-face.

Mr. Gibbons proved to be a rare natural storyteller. His capacity to engage and enthrall a young audience was special to watch. He reinforced the magic of books and the wonder of getting lost in the meanderings and interaction of fictional characters. He also emphasized the important lessons that books and stories convey.

Mr. Gibbons’ presence at our school was rather timely.  His novel “Caught in the Crossfire” is a warning that addresses the negative impact of racism in an increasingly multicultural England. In our assembly he addressed how important it is in today’s world to promote and embrace inclusion and diversity. He was emphatic in openly urging our Québec government to avoid implementing a restrictive charter of rules that would prohibit the natural sharing of important elements of personal identity.

I thank Mr. Gibbons for presenting challenges and reminding us that our peaceful society is a precious balance. He asked that we take very seriously the issues that threaten the attributes of our community built up over time. A strong society that celebrates diversity is a great Canadian strength. I hope that all of our students are now doubly motivated to protect that strength with all of their abilities and with great passion. This is clearly not a time for apathy in Quebec. —Christopher Shannon, Headmaster

Shannon’s Top 10 Reasons to Read

ClaireHodenRothmanThis week we welcomed Claire Holden Rothman, author of this year’s LCC Reads book The Heart Specialist as well as Dr. Ariane Marelli, Director of the MAUDE Cardiology Unit at the Montreal General Hospital (Lib_LCCReadsAssembly_01Dec2011).  In the spirit of discussing this book, I put together my own Top Ten list about the importance of reading (view LCC Reads photos).

1. Academic Success – Research confirms that the greatest single predictor of success in senior high school and post-secondary programs is the capacity of a student to read.  Reading builds knowledge and makes students smarter.

2. Vocabulary Development – Reading helps put words in context and broadens our word recognition ability.

3. Imagination – Reading takes us to new and imaginary places and helps us to be more creative; it certainly helps develop more colourful ideas.

4. Quiet and Calm – The opportunity to quietly pause and focus in a busy/noisy world is an important attribute of focusing on a text.

5. StorytellingStorytelling is so powerful that many ancient cultures continue to stress key stories as the foundations of their cultural identity.  This remains the case with many aboriginal nations in Canada.  Consider also how in mainstream culture the Harry Potter series excited and engaged a whole generation of young people.  The release of every new book in the series caused pandemonium around the world.

6. Choice – Read whatever interests motivates or excites you.  Whatever makes you think and develop original ideas, develop solutions to problems, or create a greater awareness of the complexities of the world is meaningful.  Reading can actually lead to discoveries and have a “wow factor” that motivates us to achieve.

7. Inspiration – Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address “Ask not what this country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” Nelson Mandela’s inaugural address as the first black President of South Africa… these are all examples of how the written word can awaken deep feelings in all of us. Also, stories of courage can motivate us and the written word presents the opportunity for a clear voice by people who are somewhat shy in groups and less inclined to speak out.

8. Meaningful – In our Junior School we use an active reading methodology called “AIM” which focuses on students’ meaningful personal connections to texts.  While students are quietly reading they employ gestures that indicate what the material makes them feel, think, predict, connect and remind them of. Each sentiment has a quiet gesture.  One-on-one, the classroom teacher listens to the student’s oral explanation of why something is personally meaningful.  In short, the reading material becomes more relevant – and young students become more actively connected to the content.

9. Power of Words – Words resonate deeply.  Remember that two winters ago Canada’s Olympic team chose a simple word to motivate our athletes and a whole nation – “Believe.”  It was Canada’s mantra, “Believe.”  The word inspired athletes, teams, and a whole country as we earned the greatest medal haul in our history.

10. Reading Builds Community – We begin young by reading some common texts/stories in school and continue to share stories in English classes in high school.  Beyond school, book clubs are very popular in Canada (at LCC as well at various levels).  Our LCC Reads program has helped to bring hundreds of people together over a single book.

Thanks to all of our English teachers for their support of reading and literacy skills here at LCC.  A special thank you to Mr. Moore, Head of our English department and co-chair of the LCC Reads committee, along with our chief librarian Mrs. Varvarikos and dozens of students who are active members of our LCC Reads Club. Continue to read, learn and be inspired by the written word. Remember, literacy is timeless!– Christopher Shannon, Headmaster

The Value of the Library

Lower Canada CollegeWhile in Toronto recently I was struck by the front-page headline in the Toronto Star: “Ontario Schools shelve libraries.”

In a controversial decision, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board recently laid off all but four of its 39 librarians and is now dismantling all of its libraries. The board intends to revamp the use of space and use it more as student centres with computers and reference materials, or open it up for arts activities. This move has been attributed to two main factors: First, the ongoing shift to digital technologies resulting in declining use of books and journals by students. The second factor is cost savings, as that particular school board faces declining enrolment and an $8 – $10 million deficit in the next school year. So tough choices have to be made to avoid further financial losses.

Interestingly, that school board in Ontario is actually reflective of a broader trend across Canada. Although schools have not necessarily taken the drastic step of closing their libraries, very few are still staffed with a qualified librarian. To put things in perspective, understand that we have three full-time librarians here at LCC to staff our Junior and Senior libraries. In the public school system in the province of Nova Scotia there are none, there are only three left in all of New Brunswick, and numbers have declined notably in Alberta and BC’s public school systems as well. In Ontario primary schools, only 12% have full-time librarians.

In the face of this discouraging trend in Canada, studies have actually shown a strong relationship between professionally-staffed libraries and student achievement in school, including better scores on standardized tests (as much as 8%) and much more positive attitudes toward reading.

Meanwhile in Europe in the past decade, the trend has been the opposite of what’s happening in Canada. Europeans are investing in and developing libraries as a force to improve education. So in the Canadian context, I guess here at LCC we are “countercultural” relative to our Canadian counterparts and have aligned ourselves more with Europeans.

Although we have been proactive with the use of digital media at LCC, we also believe in the value of the book. We support the importance of the library as an information centre and oasis of calm in a noisy world. In the library students can read quietly, reflect and harvest the seeds of their creativity.

We have a reading week in our Junior School and our LCC Reads initiative in Middle/Senior School remains an important and interesting activity in our annual calendar. As the broader debate on libraries continues, one thing is for sure, the level of literacy that each student develops during their time at LCC will likely define much of their success in university studies and likely in professional life. So despite a host of other attractive options in their busy lives, young people need to make time to read; it will definitely make a difference in their futures.

Keeping our LCC libraries open is our priority and we will continue to actively support the development of literacy across all grades. By the way, our annual Book Fair is around the corner: May 26-27. Be sure to pick up a copy of the new LCC Reads book, The Heart Specialist. I hope you find something there that tweaks your interest. –Chris Shannon, Headmaster

Teeming with Potential

Blog_TeemPotential_25Nov2010I had a special day last Tuesday. At the outset of the morning, sixteen bright-eyed members of Kindergarten visited me in my office. At this early stage in their development, every trip beyond the confines of “la Maison Maternelle” is a learning experience and journey of discovery. They asked what I actually do at LCC, and after some discussion, it still remained a mystery. The only “doers” in their eyes are their gifted teachers who teach, encourage, guide and support them everyday in their classroom. The children were satisfied with more pedestrian questions: what is my favorite shape (round) and colour (blue)? Why are all the “big kids” allowed to walk around without their teachers? Is the shovel in my office that was used to turn the sod on our new arena construction project in 2007 made out of real gold? What a fabulous group of children, teeming with potential and yearning to learn at all times.

Later that morning we had a visit from Walter Dean Myers, author of Monster, this year’s LCC Reads selection—our community summer reading/literacy initiative. Started six years ago by English Department Head Brian Moore and Head Librarian Maria Varvarikos, the program has been widely embraced by students and staff. Mr. Myers is the fifth author from the LCC Reads program to have followed our collective summer reading experience with a visit to 4090 Royal to address our Middle and Senior School student body. Mr. Myers was wonderful in explaining how he plies his craft: up every morning at 5 am for three to four hours of writing, always producing five pages of his novel—never six or four, always five pages. It is this kind of commitment and measured certainty that has allowed him to publish more than one hundred novels, mostly aimed at adolescent readers.

For many, the description of his early life was most interesting. Mr. Myers lost his mother at an early age and was placed in foster care. He suffered from a speech impediment that made him the brunt of many jokes among peers. Frustrated, he spent much of his youth in Harlem fighting, but not just with other boys, also girls, his teachers, and on one occasion, the mailman. Along the way he found comfort in books and became an avid reader. He claimed it was that skill that allowed him to mature and emerge. He slowly gained confidence in his own capacity to share stories with others as a writer. Mr. Myers openly encouraged all of our students to read as much as possible. Like our Kindergarten students, even our high school students need to remember that they too are teeming with potential. I am pleased that an accomplished writer was able to remind them that continuing to develop reading skills is essential to their success—and success they will experience because of LCC Reads! —Chris Shannon, Headmaster