By RON FANFAIR
Director of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Dr. Chris Spence, is passionate about creating a literacy environment for young people, especially boys.
Canada’s largest school board has hired three acclaimed authors, including award-winning novelist Lawrence Hill, as Writers-in-Residence for the next school year.
They will provide valuable insights into the creative process that promotes a strong foundation in literacy development and a lifelong joy of reading and writing.
“This is all part of our board’s endeavour to promote literacy for life and really trying to inspire students to engage in this new journey,” said Spence, who is one of the featured speakers at next January’s TD National Reading Summit II in Montreal. “I think a great way to do that is to bring in role models who have a passion for writing and reading and have our students get the opportunity to interact with and learn from them.”
Hill is the author of seven books, including The Book of Negroes, which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen and CBC’s Radio’s Canada Reads awards. The book was also a finalist for the Hurston/Wright LEGACY award and long-listed for the Giller Prize and IMPAC award.
The son of the late Dr. Dan Hill, considered the founding father of human rights in Ontario, Lawrence Hill graduated from Laval University and John Hopkins University with degrees in economics and writing and worked as a reporter with The Globe & Mail and The Winnipeg Free Press.
Named Author of the Year by Go On Girl, the largest African-American women’s book club in the United States, Hill won the national magazine award for the best essay – Is Africa’s Pain Black America’s Burden? – which was published in Canada five years ago. His 2005, 90-minute documentary, Seeking Salvation: A History of the Black Church in Canada, won the American Wilbur award for best national documentary.
The University of Toronto bestowed an honorary doctorate on Hill last month.
Spence said the TDSB is honoured to have Hill on its team.
“His reputation speaks for itself. We also wanted to make sure our authors reflect the students we are trying to serve.”
Children’s literature author Eric Walters and 2007 Children’s Author and Illustrator of the Year, Barbara Reid, are the other TDSB Writers-in-Residence.
Spence expects each of them to visit at least one school a month.
“Because these authors are busy, the expectation is that each of them will go to at least 12 schools during 2010-2011 to do a book talk and really elaborate about their passion for reading and writing,” Spence said.