March 2020 is likely a memorable date for most people. It was the date that formal announcements of the COVID-19 global pandemic began to change and impact the lives of many Canadians. The world came to (what felt like) an abrupt halt as we adapted our routines and habits to keep ourselves (and each other!) safe. It certainly was a unique and “unprecedented” period in history.
Three years later, there is no shortage of archived documentation of our collective navigation of this surreal experience. News headlines, research articles, blogs, tweets, and social media posts all capture an array of thoughts and feelings throughout the pandemic. But what documentation is there from younger children during this time? A question that perhaps inspired the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation (CCLF) to develop a program that sheds some light on this topic.
Lost & Found: Pandemic Stories of Discovery as Told by Kids in Canada is a national storytelling project developed and led by CCLF, in collaboration with mental health and child-serving organizations. It gave kids in Canada (and their families!) a platform to share their own experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Stories are a key part of understanding ourselves, our experiences, and our world. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a struggle for children and their families – yet the stories of children, in their own words, have been largely absent from our collective pandemic narrative.” – Canada Children’s Literacy Foundation
Storytelling is necessary for developing literacy skills. It is a way to build connections between people and teach them the value of listening, and it reminds us that everyone’s story matters. Through the Lost & Found program, children were empowered to share their stories and have them embedded in national history.
The NWT Literacy Council (NWTLC) liaised with CCLF to help involve northern families in this project. NWTLC worked with partners in Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, and Yellowknife to support creative workshops that engaged over 150 children and their families. Guided by a thorough curriculum developed by CCLF, facilitators of these workshops inspired participants to produce over 350 submissions collectively in the form of artworks, written reflections, and voice recordings that capture children’s experience of the pandemic.
“So much work was done on ‘big feelings’ around the pandemic, and the parents and kids LOVED the programs.” – Nikki Pidborochynski, NWTLC Healthy Family Home Visitor
In Yellowknife, the NWTLC hosted a Lost & Found drop-in workshop at the recent Multicultural Potluck in February with a special guest. Local author and illustrator Nikolai Deleff was present to draw and chat with families about how to use images and artworks to tell stories.
The artworks, reflections, and voice notes created in the NWT will be displayed, alongside those from children across the country, in an online exhibition hosted by CCLF that launched on March 7. You can view the exhibition by clicking here. A selection of written and artistic submissions was also displayed at the Snow Castle in Yellowknife from March 14-19.
-Nicole Sharp, Family and Community Literacy Coordinator