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Shannen and the Dream for a School

In 2012-2013 Shannen and the Dream for a School was the award recipient for First Nation Communities Read.

All children have the right to a school.

This is the true story of Shannen Koostachin and the people of Attawapiskat, a Cree community in Northern Ontario, who have been fighting for a new school since 1979, when a fuel spill contaminated their original school building.

It is 2008, and thirteen-year-old Shannen and the other students at J.R. Nakogee Elementary are tired of attending class in portables that smell and don’t keep out the freezing cold winter air. They make a YouTube video describing the poor conditions, and their plea for a decent school gains them attention and support from community leaders and children across the country. Inspired, the students decide to turn their grade-eight class trip into a visit to Ottawa, to speak to the Canadian government. Once there, Shannen speaks passionately to the politicians about the need to give Native children the opportunity to succeed. The following summer, Shannen is nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Her passion and that of the other students makes politicians stand up and take notice, and becomes a rallying point for the community and for the country.

Shannen will never see her dream fulfilled. Tragically, she was killed in a car crash in 2010. Her family, friends, and supporters are continuing to fight and to honor her memory as they work for equality for children in communities everywhere.

Authenticity Note: This book has received the Authentic Indigenous Text label as it is written by Janet Wilson with the participation and support of members of the Attawapiskat community.

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