Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Refugees in Calais, Reading and Waiting

Pamela Druckerman New York Times


A volunteer gave refugees an English lesson last week in a makeshift library at the "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, France. Credit Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

Calais, France — “YOU like the place?”
That’s what people in the “Jungle” of Calais keep asking me. They want to know what I think of this dirty, unelectrified stretch of land below a highway, filled with camping tents, plastic-covered sheds and frightening toilets. It’s a temporary home for several thousand people, most of whom have recently fled East Africa or the Middle East.
I’m not sure how to reply to this question. Should I be polite and say the Jungle isn’t so bad? I quickly realize that’s the wrong answer. These men want to hear the same thing I’d want to hear if I lived here: that it’s miserable and beneath their dignity.
“We don’t even want a long sentence. We just want, ‘Yes, it’s bad,’ ” explains Mohammed, a dapper Sudanese man who studied physics and math back home. Like many of those here, he didn’t offer his last name.                                                                                                                     

I’m spending the day in a relatively comfortable part of the Jungle: a makeshift library opened three weeks ago by a British volunteer named Mary Jones. The library is made out of wooden planks and plastic sheeting, with a corrugated metal roof. (“Library is a big word for it. It’s a garden shed,” Ms. Jones says).
A sign on an outside wall says “Jungle Books” in English, French and Arabic. It’s on a dirt path next to the Eritrean church, and roughly nine miles from the Jungle’s raison d’ĂȘtre: the tunnel between France and England. Every night, some Jungle residents try to storm the tunnel or sneak into — or onto — a truck bound for Britain.
I’m at the library to meet people and see what they’re reading. Inside are a few hundred donated books — castoffs from middle-class Britain: there’s an economics textbook, Barack Obama’s “Dreams From My Father,” “The Perfect Body: The Pilates Way,” “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” and three different editions of the Zohar, the Jewish mystical text. The main sign that we’re in France is the white fabric lining the inside walls, which apparently once hung as curtains in a French chateau.
Ms. Jones got the idea for the library after spending time in the Jungle and “meeting so many people who are so well qualified.” She’s not alone. Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, says many Syrian refugees he’s met are well-educated professionals who ask for reading materials, especially language books to help them integrate. Libraries Without Borders, a French group, sends refugee camps “Ideas Boxes” filled with books, teaching materials and a Wi-Fi link.
At the Jungle, Ms. Jones has gotten requests for everything from a novel about the Russian Revolution to self-help books on “how to be hopeful.” During my visit, residents were mostly looking for simple English readers and books to help them learn French.
“Since I’m in France, I have to speak the language,” says Babiker Mater, a Sudanese man wearing a too-small women’s paisley shirt — a donation received during his stopover in Paris. Winter is approaching. He’s living in a tent, and doesn’t have a coat.  
Like others I meet, Mr. Mater doesn’t have a polished, simple story about why he’s living in a dirty transit camp, carrying nothing but a small backpack. The Sudanese government was bombing civilians in his state, Blue Nile. He had studied to be an engineer, but was working in Sudan as a low-paid construction worker, supporting his unemployed mother and brother. And he’s 25. Coming to Europe had seemed like a chance to make something of his life. Now, sitting in the purgatory of the Jungle, out of money and wearing a ladies’ shirt, he’s not so sure.
I have trouble imagining the men in the library jumping onto trucks at night. One of them, a willowy 22-year-old Eritrean, speaks so softly I have to lean in to hear him. Back home, he was a university student before he was picked up on campus and put in prison for 18 months.
Now, having fled Eritrea and crossed the Mediterranean, he’s in France, browsing a copy of “Can You Keep a Secret?" by Sophie Kinsella. “I want to be in England because in England you have the right to study,” he whispers. “I want to continue my education, I want to graduate.”
Two Afghan men wander into the library. One is wearing a ladies’ black shearling coat. (Being a refugee turns some men into unwitting cross-dressers.) The other browses a book called “The Most Beautiful Place in the World.”
Nearby, a young Spanish woman leads four African men in a French class. Their textbooks are open to a chapter on the Indian caste system. But the class quickly becomes a group-therapy session; the men pass their phones around to show harrowing pictures from their recent boat rides across the Mediterranean.
A Sudanese man says his boat broke into three pieces off the Libyan coast. He swam back to shore, where the same Libyan smugglers ordered all the survivors onto another boat at gunpoint. The smugglers didn’t want anyone going back into town and telling other migrants about the accident.
Samer, 30, shows a video shot eight days into his 10-day ride from Egypt to Italy. In it, Samer is on the deck of a ship giving CPR to a friend, who is diabetic and has passed out because his blood sugar level fell, and he has no food to raise it again. “I’m trying to make him survive,” Samer explains. By the end of the video, his friend is dead. When I ask how long ago this happened, he pauses and then shakes his head in disbelief: It was 12 days ago. When you’re in his shoes, time feels skewed.
By the end of the day, I realize that the library is mostly just a calm place for people to digest what’s happened, and mull what to do next. Jamal, an electric rickshaw driver from the Darfur region of Sudan, has been sitting in a corner of the room most of the day, typing in Arabic on his iPad. (He recharges it at Salam, a nearby French charity that also provides dinner.) “I’m doing my work,” was all he’d say about it.
As the sun sets over the Jungle, Jamal finally reveals what he’s been working on: his autobiography, from birth to Calais. “Since I crossed the border and the Mediterranean Sea, I start thinking about my life,” he explains.
It’s not the life he expected. “Life is stages: children, young man. Now refugee in Europe. And I’m really shocked,” he says. “Sometimes I feel like I made a mistake to come to Europe. Anyway, I have no choice, I left by force.”
Two 6-year-old Eritrean boys come inside, looking for toys. They find a model 18-wheel truck, and Jamal points to a door on the rear of it. “You hide there inside,” he tells them. When they don’t understand — perhaps because they haven’t seen the tunnel yet — Jamal adds, “Why we are here? To cross the border.”
“To England!” one of the boys replies.
I’m not sure how many people here will make it to England. Some have applied to stay in France. But by the end of the day, I have no trouble saying what I think about this inhospitable no man’s land. No one should have to live like this. We must treat people humanely while they — and we — figure out what to do next.

Friday, 25 September 2015

12 Canadian novels that should be made into movies

The book is always better than the movie, right? Well, that may be true, but it isn't stopping us from wishing that these 12 great Canadian novels get adapted for the silver screen already.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The TIFF 2015 Reading List

Thursday, September 10, 2015 | CBC Books 

tiffreadinglistbanner-620.jpgTo our delight, more than 30 films at this year's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) are based on books. After a great deal of arguing, sacrifices were grudgingly made and the CBC Books team put together a list of 15 books that inspired TIFF 2015 for your reading pleasure.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 10 to 20.
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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Librarians on Bikes Are Delivering Books and WiFi to Kids in “Book Deserts”

What a great initiative to reach every child. JN

by Susan Johnston, Project Literacy     

August 19, 2015
Image via Seattle Public Library.
“Food deserts" refer to low-income areas where convenience stores are often the only viable food source and fresh produce is a rarity. But nutritious foods aren't the only thing kids need to thrive and grow.
Many of these undernourished kids also live in so-called "book deserts"—areas without easy access to libraries and reading material to nurture their imaginations and development (just think of the 12-year-old boy in Utah who asked his mailman for junk mail to read because he couldn't get to a library).
To combat these problems, creative-thinking librarians and literacy supporters are using inventive solutions to expand access to books and promote a love of reading.
In the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Soar with Reading (a project of JetBlue Airlines) installed book vending machines to dispense 100,000 brand-new free books in three locations for kids ages 0-14. Soar with Reading is now accepting votes for its next city, with Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Houston, and Fort Lauderdale in the running.
Outside the U.S., Book Bus delivers accessible and relevant books to children in Africa, Asia, and South America. So far, the charity has reached over 10,000 kids in Zambia, Malawi and Ecaudor, with the goal of reaching 10,000 more kids by 2016.
Image via Bibliobicicleta.
Meanwhile in India, a program called PlanetRead was recognized as an innovative way to improve child literacy at International Literacy Day in 2012. Self-described as "karaoke on Bollywood for mass reading," PlanetRead uses Same Language Subtitling (SLS) to subtitle movies or music videos on Indian TV to help weak readers improve their reading skills.
Books on bikes are another creative solution gaining popularity in the U.S. and abroad. A scaled-down version of the book mobiles that were once a fixture of many middle- and upper-class childhoods in America, these pedal-powered libraries allow librarians to bring books out of the library shelves and into the communities they serve. And in places that lack roads and infrastructure for a book mobile, they can also prove more practical.
Seattle Public Library's Books on Bikes program started in May 2013, following an internal campaign to create more innovative outreach programs. "Seattle has a really strong bike culture so we wanted to tap into that and provide full service library programs but do it in a way that is nimble," says managing librarian Jared Mills, who spearheads the program.
Seattle Public Library has three different bike trailers that librarians bring to community events, curating reading material based on the event's focus. One trailer has a children's theme. "Children's librarians have a great time bringing children's activities to different communities," Mills says. "It's neat to see the kids touching [the trailer]. It brings that joy of reading and discovery."
Image via Seattle Public Library.
The trailers are also wifi-enabled so that librarians can register people for a library card and check out books on the spot using an iPad. "You can walk up and walk away with an arm full of books," Mills says. "When we're out riding, we get people honking and waving. They love that the library is out in such a unique way." In the course of a year, the Books on Bike program visits 20-30 events and services around 1,500 people.
In San Francisco, private school librarian and bicycle enthusiast Alicia Tapia started Bibliobicicleta, a donation-based library on bicycle, in May 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Tapia's bike trailer can carry about 100 books at any given time, and she says the Bibliobicicleta attracts readers of all ages, lifestyles and income levels. "Of course kids are a little more brave to just approach the bike but adults—if they're not too cool—will stop and see what it's all about," she says.  
Tapia hands out donated books in San Francisco's Pandhandle neighborhood on Tuesday evenings, but she'll also ride to the Mission Area and Golden Gate Park as time and weather allow. In the near future, she hopes to get an electric motor installed on her bike so she can travel further afield. "I want to go to other places, but the hills of San Francisco don't make it safe to do that with the weight I'm carrying," she explains.
While cycling around with a book-laden trailer can be tiring, Tapia finds the project deeply rewarding. "Books do something for the human brain that nothing else can," she says. "With books comes happiness, and people build empathy for one another. [We're trying to offer] new perspectives and reignite an enthusiasm for reading."

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

New Beginnings

My older niece is going to high school next week.  The little baby has grown up so fast! 

High school students have access to a great number of resources at their local library.  In Lincoln, we have a great selection of novels and non-fiction books for all types of projects and study.  We also have some great databases - Career Cruising, Literature Resource Centre, Infotrac Student, Britannica and World Book encyclopedias and many more.  The Fleming Library has a study room for students working on group projects.

The Library also offers a number to teen programs.  If a teen joins the Teen Advisory Committee, which helps develop the programs, he or she can get community service hours.

For busy Moms and Dads, you can bring a child to hockey practice in Beamsville and another can visit the library to do homework in one convenient location - the Fleming Centre.

Start the school year off right by visiting the greatest free resource in Lincoln, the Lincoln Public Library.