Mother and daughter partnered book series supports children, promotes reading
By Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly
After local resident Sheila Chartrand lost her teenage son Corey to a car accident on Highway 69 in 2010, she found a way to cope through storytelling.
Chartrand, along with her daughter Kallie Williams (nee Chartrand), have since published children’s books: “The Schobrine” and most recent “The Goonchba,” which was released in January. These are the first two of the Come Over to My House (www.comeovertomyhouseseries.com) book series, which is written by Chartrand and illustrated by her daughter in memory of their beloved family member. Each of the books are based on real events the Chartrand family experienced.
“One of the reasons why I wrote these true life adventures and stories in the first place is to keep Corey’s memory alive,” Chartrand shared. “In his short 16 years, Corey touched the lives of many people. Through the sale of each book, we make donations to children’s charities in Corey’s name, so that he can continue to help others in need.”
Her son was killed 17 days before he turned 17 years old on December 20, 2010 and was six months away from being a Father Patrick Mercredi High School graduate.
“Corey never had the chance to walk across the stage,” she said.
To honour him, the Chartrands have established the Corey “Big C” Chartrand Golden Heart Memorial Award. The award grants the student recipient, who is chosen by their peers, a $1,000 bursary for demonstrating they have – like Corey – a ‘Heart of Gold’.
Today, Chartrand continues to be involved with the local education system and is partnering with schools in the Districts to share her stories inside classrooms among students through the self-titled initiative: Sheila’s Story Time, which was adapted after a recent reading program experience inspired by the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray.
In October 2015, Chartrand was asked by Club to help promote literacy in the rural communities of the Wood Buffalo region. Soon after, Chartrand, her daughter and Canadian author Jacqueline Guest travelled to Fort McKay, Anzac, Conklin, Janvier and Fort Chipewyan to read their books.
“I loved the experience. I loved that through reading these books, I was able to capture the attention of the entire classroom as the children were completely absorbed with the stories,” she said.
Throughout the program, Chartrand felt there was an important element missing. She further heard about a similar initiative her friend, Jeff Peddle, started in Newfoundland, where he donates books to school libraries through sponsors. She said that was the missing piece to the puzzle and her current goal is to leave a book with each child who is read to.
“After thinking about it for a few days, I created “Sheila’s Story Time” and made appointments with the local school boards to ask their permission to start this reading program to promote literacy within their schools. The Fort McMurray Public School Board was the first to completely embrace and support this idea,” she said.
“Through Sheila’s Story Time, I also want to share the experience of reading books to elementary classes with the entire community. There really is no way of describing that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when reading to a classroom.”
Program seeks local sponsors
Chartrand invites fellow authors to join her in telling stories.
The first Sheila’s Story Time took place on April 7 at Dr. Clark School in two different ECDP classrooms with reader Jeff Thompson, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Fort McMurray Public School District. On April 13, she was joined by readers Paula Galenzoski, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic School District and Dennine Giles of Northstar Ford at École St. Paul.
On Monday, she headed back to the elementary school where both of her children once attended at Father Beauregard School for the first official reading of “The Goonchba”.
“The Goonchba is a true story about Kallie and Corey getting up one particular day to go to school and Kallie had realized that Corey had thrown all the crafts that she had made the night before into the garbage,” she shared. “You can imagine the fight. Obviously, I didn’t want them to fight with each other and I deflected their anger and fighting by telling them that if they did not stop, they would turn into Goonchbas.”
Future readings are set to take place in May at St. Gabriel School and St. Kateri School.
Thanks to current book sponsors (including: Chez Max, Kalex Custom Carvings Ltd., the Co-Operators – Stephen House Agency Inc., Advantage Learning Solutions Inc., Bertini’s Catering, NuFloors, Northstar Ford, Cummins Western Canada, Genroc Ltd., Spruceland Lumber and Inland Concrete), Chartland said children are able to take home a book of their own. The sponsorship also has a portion donated to a children’s charity.
“Although I am choosing to keep everything local, I have selected the Ronald McDonald House as the charity for the donations this year,” she said. “Real (Chartrand’s husband) and I toured Ronald McDonald House and we were told that there were over 200 families from Fort McMurray in one year that had to use the facility. As it turned out, one of the children in a reading that we have already had, was scheduled to have heart surgery in one month and was going to be staying there in Edmonton.”
The books are available to purchase for $20 per copy and Chartrand has sponsorship packages available. They can be purchased online at www.comeovertomyhouseseries.com or at Heritage Park and Dunvegan Gardens.
Chartrand is further inviting local authors to join her on this journey. To take part, she will need three copies of their books to send to the school boards for content approval. Once approved, Chartrand will purchase their books for her program.
“I would also invite them to accompany the readings, so that the children can meet them and get their autograph as the author of their book,” she said. “If there are no local authors that respond, I will open this up to Alberta Authors, and then eventually Canadian Authors.”
Local author Sheila Chartrand can be reached directly by email at email@example.com, by phone at 780-743-0088 or on Twitter @chartrandsheila.