A Mountain of Books

No matter how much rain we get, young readers can climb the Chilkoot Trail at Well-Read Books this summer.

The free project, called “Reading over the Chilkoot”, guides children aged 6-9 and 10-13 to read their way over the Trail.

Just as on the real trail, they have to gear up first. Colourful canvas passports, handmade by Mary Hudgin, and an equipment list of suggested readings are at Well-Read Books, Coles and Mac’s.

The list was developed from suggestions collected with the question, “What was the most important book in your life?” answered by Yukoners visiting the Well-Read Books tent on Canada Day.

“Many people like to read from lists,” says Hudgin.

Readers can choose their own books, too, developing a personal summer reading list as they record the titles in their passport. Borrowing books from friends, family, or the library, is also encouraged.

Reader-hikers read books to move along from one checkpoint to the next. Trail information and activities challenge adventurers from point to point, page by page.

Reading suggestions lead children to explore different genres, such as biography, historical fiction, or poetry.

The activities for 6-9 year olds are oriented to visual creativity. For example, on the section from Chilkoot Pass to Stone Crib there is the instruction, “Please read a northern book and then write a sentence or draw a picture of your favourite Yukon pastime.”

For 10-13 year olds, the writing activities build verbal creativity. For instance, to complete the leg from Finnegan’s Point to Canyon City, adventurers read two books of more than 100 pages.

Then they’re asked to find two internet sites with pictures of the Chilkoot and write three sentences on what the trail looks like.

“It’s meant to be a fun thing, not homework,” says Hudgin.

At each stage of the trail, hikers “check in” at Well-Read Books for a stamp. Once they’ve reached Bennett Lake, just like hikers on the real Chilkoot, reading adventurers receive a certificate of completion from Parks Canada.

“The prize is the joy of reading,” says Hudgin. “The filled passport with all the titles and activities gives kids a measurable way for them to see progress.”

Hudgin, the children’s specialist at Well-Read Books, also makes books and was the inspiration for the project. She got the idea in Grade 5 when the University of Arizona dropped off reading adventure passports at her local library.

“I was a kid when they’d just landed the first man on the moon, so our reading adventures were all about astronauts.

I thought it was great.”

Hudgin later reproduced the idea for a home-schooled child with whom she was working. She still has the prototype for the reading adventures she prepared for him.

It took about two weeks to write the text and activities for the Chilkoot adventure. Hudgin created the passport for the young adult (10-13 year old) group, and Rachel Travis adapated it for the younger children.

Graphic designer Cass Collins put in the pictures and polished the layout.

As the end of one adventure leads to the next, young readers can look forward to future adventures paddling the Yukon, travelling the Dawson Overland Trail or driving the Alaska Highway.

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