Nanaimo author pens children’s book on homelessness

A Nanaimo writer has written a children’s book about homelessness and she’ll soon be sharing it with classrooms around the country.

Last month it was announced that Nanaimo author and former executive director of Nanaimo’s Unitarian shelter Lois Peterson is one of the authors selected for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Canadian Children’s Book Week Tour for her first non-fiction book, Shelter: Homelessness in our Community.

This is Peterson’s second time on the tour, which sends children’s authors to different parts of the country to present their books to students. The tour, happening in May, will take place online, meaning Peterson could be presenting Shelter to students anywhere.

“I was very surprised but also pleased because the book centre’s really pivotal in promoting Canadian children’s reading,” she said of being selected.

In her book, Peterson covers “misconceptions” about homelessness and discusses the reasons people experience homelessness, what life is like for them and the challenges they face.

“I’m always concerned about the way kids get their information from the adults in their lives,” she said. “So, I wanted in some sense to address that and give children real information that then they could come to their own conclusions.”

Peterson said homelessness is an issue that matters to her because it’s “the hardest proof we live in very inequitable society.” She said along with ubiquitous inequity is fear-driven intolerance toward people who are struggling.

“To live in such a wealthy society as we live in and to have poverty like this around us every day, I think it doesn’t say great things about us as human beings,” she said.

In tailoring the book for young readers, Peterson said she aimed to relate it to what they themselves may have witnessed in their own communities. She was mindful that some young readers may be living in vulnerable situations and the book advises where they can go for help. She said discussing homelessness with children can be part of a long-term solution.

“I feel that talking to children about issues like this helps us raise caring adults, increases empathy and awareness,” she said. [With] adults, many of their ideas and opinions are fully formed and fixed, whereas kids are open to looking at things in new ways.”

Shelter: Homelessness in our Community is available in Nanaimo from Windowseat Books and Strong Nations, as well as through the Vancouver Island Regional Library.

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Josef Jacobson

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