I am Sarah Maitland, literacy enthusiast, and I run fun literacy programs for kids in East Vancouver. My most recent project is the KidSafe Writers’ Room, a creative, safe space at Queen Alexandra Elementary where students will work on literacy projects with the help of volunteer tutors. (The KidSafe Writers’ Room is inspired by the writers’ rooms of 826 Valencia, a kids’ literacy organization in San Francisco co-founded by Dave Eggers.)
What do you do for fun?
One of the things I do for fun is give away free imaginary pets. At the Main Street Car-Free Festival this year, I gave away 64 imaginary pets, from cats and dogs to unicorns and a reindeer fairy. People filled in an imaginary-pet order form and the pets were delivered to them that night, in their dreams. Giving away free imaginary pets is actually an opportunity to get kids reading and writing, so it’s an example of my all-time favourite activity: enabling people to flex their literacy muscles in creative ways.
My favourite community is made up of the people who create and maintain other people’s lifelong passions for reading and writing. I’ve met some amazing people on my journey to implement fun literacy programming in Vancouver (the wonderful staff, volunteers and interns at 826 Valencia; the awesome literacy leaders at Little Mountain Neighbourhood House in Vancouver; and all the fantastic Writers’ Room supporters and volunteers I’m working with now), and all of these people inspire me with their energy and dedication. It’s these literacy lovers–and the kids we work with, of course–who fuel my passion for kids’ literacy and the Writers’ Room.
What is your superpower?
My superpower is the ability to run at superhuman speeds on my magical fake peg leg. But don’t ask for a demonstration. I can only do it when no one’s watching.
How do you use it to build community?
I run at superhuman speeds on my peg leg to San Francisco’s only independently owned pirate store, which happens to be the storefront of the 826 Valencia tutoring centre. There, I loot and plunder for fabulous, fun, successful literacy-programming ideas, and then I run back to Vancouver and tailor, expand and implement the ideas to help build the kids’ literacy community here. Yar!
1. Unbridled Enthusiastic Idealism. I first met Sarah a few weeks ago when we connected to discuss a secret project that may or may not involve literacy, pirates, imaginary pets, and changing the world. Sarah’s passion for making the world more literate, safer and generally more creative and fun is inspiring stuff, and I left our conversation energized and bought-in-to her great vision.
2. Hilarious Facial Expressions. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met anyone who can enunciate a point with a goofy, shocked, excited, disgusted, happy, or serious facial expression like Sarah can. Peg-leg superspeed notwithstanding, Sarah’s ability to screw up her face in a way that can engage a thirty-year-old armchair stand up comedian makes me think that she has the learners at KidSafe hanging on her every word…or facial expression.
3. Passion for the Written Word. A more cynical man would say that video games, movies and text messages are killing the written word and the creativity that pushes nouns against verbs against adjectives. Sarah’s commitment to inspiring kids with written stories represents the sort of volunteer project that will sustain reading and writing for generations to come – as a community, perhaps we’ll even get passed this ‘lol’ crap under Sarah’s watch. She might ask you for help one of these days, too, and if you care about literacy and are inspired by superawesome community-based projects, be sure to listen to her pitch.