The Blackfoot Adolescent Reading Project
My postdoctoral project is a community-based, participatory study with Blackfoot youth (grades seven and eight) who live and attend school on the Kainai Blood reserve in Southern Alberta. I was awarded IBBY Canada’s 2014 Frances E Russell Grant for this project. My research emerges out of a concern that literacy and reader response scholarship does not fully engage with what Indigenous voices could bring to our understanding of young people’s responses to and engagement with fiction. Through reading discussion groups and visual methods, including photo-elicitation and map-making, I seek to understand the ways in which my participants’ identities are tied to the land. The youth are reading several Indigenous texts, including Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Deborah Yawney and Makai’stoo-Leo Fox’s Sierra and Blue Go to Town, and Jason Eagle Speaker’s Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel. The process is encouraging the youth to celebrate the values and identities that were stripped from their communities through cultural assimilation, and to critically analyze their worlds and potentially transform them. You can read more about my project here.
Raising Spirit: the Opokaa’sin Digital Storytelling Project
I am currently a co-investigator on the Raising Spirit: the Opokaa’sin Digital Storytelling Project, an interdisciplinary collaboration involving researchers from the U of L’s Institute for Child and Youth Studies and community partners, policy makers, and youth from Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society, an NGO that supports urban Indigenous children and families in southern Alberta. Funded by PolicyWise For Children and Families, and a Canada 150 Grant from the Community Foundation of Lethbride, we are building a digital library of stories and photographs via the platform ThingLink. The digital library contains stories of Blackfoot history, culture, and language, which will assist in Opokaa’sin’s delivery of culturally relevant programming, including Blackfoot language classes. While oral storytelling is key to Blackfoot culture, we are finding that digital storytelling is an innovative way of including young people in the research process. Building and interaction with the digital library is encouraging youth to conceptualize and take ownership of their cultural stories.
Under my supervision, Blackfoot high school and undergraduate students are being trained as ethnographers and curators of the digital library. During fieldwork over the summer months, we visited Elders in their homes, listened to their stories, and learned about traditional land-based cultural practices. The youth are now building and curating the library, making decisions about the ways in which the stories are translated, archived, and shared, ensuring that the finished project represents the stories that matter to them. Our findings will provide data on the effectiveness of incorporating digital technologies into cultural programming for and with young people. In response to the TRC’s call for culturally appropriate curricula, as well as language retention and revitalization, the library will be shared with students in Lethbridge and beyond.
“Our Torontos are different places”: A qualitative, multiple case study, designed to investigate the interconnections between young adult fiction and young adult readers’ constructions of place within and beyond the text.
My doctoral project, completed in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge, was the 2014 recipient of the UKLA Student Research Prize. My dissertation explored the interconnections between young adult fiction and young adult readers’ constructions of place within and beyond the text. It employed a qualitative, multiple case study design, and utilized discussion groups, semi-structured interviews, and the creation of place-journals by participants (including visual and verbal responses). It interpreted some of the ways in which ten sixteen- and seventeen-year old readers, in two Canadian communities, respond to how place and place-identity are construed within two young adult fiction texts. Correspondingly, it questioned how and if reading these place-based texts impelled these readers to reflect on place within their own lives. A selection of this work has been published in Children’s Geographies, Jeunesse: young people, texts, cultures, in Springer’s major reference guide, Geographies of Children and Young People, and in several forthcoming edited collections. You can read more about my project here.
The Writing, Reading, and Place Project, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
The WRePlace project was an 18 month interdisciplinary project, based at Cambridge University Faculty of Education, which aimed to consider children’s place-related identities through their engagement with, and creation of, texts.
The Caribbean Poetry Project, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
The Caribbean Poetry Project, was a pioneering collaboration between Cambridge University Faculty of Education, the Centre for Commonwealth Education, and The University of the West Indies at Mona (Jamaica), St Augustine (Trinidad) and Cave Hill (Barbados). Through a joint research and teaching programme, the project encouraged engagement with Caribbean poetry, and improved the teaching and learning of poetry in both British and Caribbean schools.