Local literary initiative empowers future leaders through reading
By Melanie Mosher
Prior to the pandemic — when everyone turned to social media to feel a sense of connection — there was an idea for a local literary initiative called Digitally Lit. It would be a program to bring Atlantic Canadian youth together through reading. The COVID lockdown gave the program a boost and allowed the group to zoom ahead.
According to its website, Digitally Lit is “A youth engagement strategy aimed at empowering youth from across Mi’kma’ki — and specifically the area currently known as Atlantic Canada — to bridge the digital realm with this region’s vibrant literary arts communities through the reading of books.”
Youth ambassador Alicia Maheux, 16, says the program has given her new opportunities and introduced her to many books and authors.
“It’s allowed me to explore myself … and this other ocean of books,” explains Maheux, who lives just outside Halifax. “What I’ve noticed from reading American books, or books from other countries, is that there will always be good books, but there’s just this certain type of feeling when the character in this fictional universe is at your doorstep … It makes it almost more interesting when they’re in your area, and I love that Digitally Lit has allowed me to explore that.”
Darby Gibbon, 15, another youth ambassador, says she loves being part of Digitally Lit.
“I’ve had the opportunity to explore Atlantic Canadian authors’ work through books, as well as meet youth across Atlantic Canada who share the same passion for reading as me,” says Gibbon, who attends Lockview High School in Fall River. “I can’t believe this is my job, and I’m very lucky to be a part of something so special.”
Digitally Lit is a place for youth, by youth.
Ways to participate
Be a Youth Ambassador: The ambassadors are a diverse and inclusive group of youth across the Atlantic Provinces who love to read, are critical thinkers, creative souls and are digitally savvy. They read, write honest reviews, and post on social media, including Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, Snapchat and Facebook. They also develop ways to encourage other youth to read Atlantic Canadian books, share their thoughts and get involved.
Be a Literacy Champion: This is a volunteer position for those who are book smart, familiar with social media, and want to connect with their peers by discussing the books they love.
Read: Post a review, see what others are reading and have fun.
Sign up: There’s a monthly newsletter to see what’s happening across the region.
Online engagement projects: Many of the Youth Ambassadors across Atlantic Canada have developed ways for people to get involved. Two examples include the “Which Atlantic Canadian Protagonist are you?” and the “Youth Draw the Word.”
The program is making a difference, says Robin Grant, the strategy coordinator for Digitally Lit.
“Digitally Lit’s youth-inspired-and-led curriculum is currently being taught in dozens of classrooms on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. The students are loving it. We started with a pilot two years ago, and the kids went bananas for it. It’s expanded via word of mouth, through Reading Specialists in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The folks at Digitally Lit are currently navigating the education system in N.S. to expand the program here. Just think what it would be like to be assigned a book to read that’s set in a place near you?
Find them on your favourite social media platform or visit digitallylit.ca
10 award-winning books to read
In August, Digitally Lit announced the winners of its first Youth Choice Awards. The team came up with awards and cast their votes after reading Atlantic Canadian books, new and old.
“I think it’s really special for an author to see their work promoted by the audience they wrote the book for,” says Kate Watson, publicist at Nimbus Publishing. “And in my job as publicist, I’m so grateful for all the work the ambassadors put it. They’re able to reach young people in a way that I never could from my middle-age language and view of the world.”
1. Muinji’j Asks Why by Muinji’j MacEachern and Shanika Jayde MacEachern — Outstanding Children’s
2. The Elephant Talks to God by Dale Estey — It Made Me Think Award
3. The Last Time I Saw Her by Alexandra Harrington — Best Debut Novel Award
4. A Beginner’s Guide to Goodbye by Melanie Mosher — It Made Me Feel Award
5. My Indian by Mi’sel Joe and Sheila O’Neill — It Belongs in Schools Award, Community and Place Award
6. The Goodbye Girls by Lisa Harrington — Favourite Book Award
7. Coquelicot sur un Rocher by Aurélie Resch — Outstanding French Award
8. The Sewing Basket by Susan White — Community and Place Award
9. Len and Cub: A Queer History by Dusty Green and Meridith J. Batt — Community and Place Award
10. Annaka by Andre Fenton — Community and Place Award