Category Archives: literacy

Family Literacy Day

Today, January 27, is Family Literacy Day here in Canada.

Family Literacy Day takes place annually on January 27 to celebrate adults and children reading and learning together, and to encourage Canadians to spend at least 15 minutes enjoying a learning activity as a family every day.

One of my writer friends, Lois Peterson, asked, “Which book do you remember sharing as a family when you were growing up?” A particular book immediately came to mind, but it took me all day to remember the title and author. (I really need to run that de-frag program on my internal hard drive.)

There was no division between adult books and children’s books in our home. My dad used to read us stuff well above our levels and continued to read to us well into our teens.  Often, we would take turns. So I learned to love reading aloud, with expression and timing–sometimes even with different voices.

The Sparrow’s Fall, by Fred Bodsworth, is vivid in my memory.  It was first published in 1967 and I remember our volume being hardbound, so I was no younger than twelve when we joined Jacob Atook on his journey. I found this description on

a novel by Fred Bodsworth

The Sparrow's Fall by Fred Bodsworth

“This Bodsworth book deals with two of man’s most basic urges: love and the will to survive. It plays out in the Hudson Bay lowlands in the person of Jacob Atook, a Canadian Indian, who tracks a solitary starving caribou in the worst winter in memory.”

From this book, I learned several key pieces of survival lore:

  1. one should drink one’s urine [a detail my brother, eight years old at that time, found delightfully disgusting] to preserve body heat; and
  2. sphagnum moss is wonderfully absorbent and used by native women for their menses.

To this day, my mother and I say we’re “going out to gather sphagnum moss” instead of running out to Shoppers Drugmart for Kotex. [Interesting trivia: until recently, at least one brand of minipads used sphagnum moss in its absorbent core. I used the product religiously until they changed from this natural absorbent core to a synthetic, wondering all the while whether sphagnum moss is sustainable, or if the environment was being pillaged to harvest it.]

Amazing how books from youth stick with us.  Which book do you remember sharing as a family when you were growing up?