|Above: Nightlights is available in libraries, local book retailers including Firefly & Fox Books, and through Indigo.|
Pandemic a chance to reflect on early childhood education – and write a book
For some, coping with the isolation brought on the pandemic meant baking loaves of sourdough. For Heather Gould, Designated Early Childhood Educator (DECE) at Rainham Central Public School, the downtime was a chance to reflect on her pedagogical practice – and she ended up writing a children’s book in the process.
|Above: Heather Gould, Designated Early Childhood Educator (DECE) at Rainham Central Public School, and author of Nightlights.|
“I had had this idea in my mind for a few years, but with the pandemic keeping us at home, I was encouraged to finally write my book,” says Gould, who taught Grand Erie’s youngest learners in the Virtual Learning Academy last year. “In a way, the pandemic changed how it was presented.”
Based in folklore, and with various stretching, breathing and grounding techniques included, Nightlights tells the story of Isla, a fox who paints the Northern Lights in the sky each night, finding peace and friendship in the process. Gould, who is also a multi-media artist, originally planned to paint the illustrations in the book. But plenty of pandemic walks in nature inspired her to do otherwise.
“I found myself in awe of how beautiful nature is, and felt like I could never capture it through painting,” she says. “I grew up with a love of photography, so I ended up producing a mixed-media design for the book.”
The act of reading the book aloud is meant to help co-regulate the adult reader and the young listeners. With deep breaths and calming strategies, it introduces a few of the tools that come in handy when dealing with big feelings or difficult moments. For Gould, writing Nightlights was a natural extension of what she’s learned and continues to learn as a DECE about differentiating instruction to meet children’s unique abilities and intelligences, and honouring the whole child. When learning went virtual, those skills became even more important.
“The pandemic challenged us to find new ways to engage children and to create meaningful relationships,” Gould reflects, pointing out she was initially concerned about how play-based learning would translate to a virtual environment. “To my delight, we found many ways to play virtually together as we learned at home.”
Grand Erie’s multi-year strategic plan includes Learning, Well-Being and Belonging among its key priorities, and the work of DECEs is instrumental is creating the environments that set children up for success as they develop confidence, cooperation and a love of learning.
“I am a proud Early Childhood Educator, and excited to be a part of this field as it continues to evolve.”