Inuk storyteller Michael Kusugak will take the stage at Tidemark Theatre Jan. 26 to put a bow on what is sure to be another wonderful week celebrating literacy in our community. Photo supplied

‘Let’s Read Together!’ during Campbell River Family Literacy Week 2020

Next week’s plethora of free events culmitate with Inuk storyteller Michael Kusugak at Tidemark

It’s an annual celebration that’s all about the love of literacy, and it starts this weekend.

“Family Literacy Week is the Campbell River Literacy Association (CRLA) and its community partner’s gift to the families of Campbell River,” says CRLA executive director Kat Eddy. “All events are free and celebrate the parents of our city as their children’s first and best teachers.”

The 2020 theme for Family Literacy Week is “Let’s Read Together!”

“Reading together as a family is your child’s first introduction to reading,” Eddy says. “Children love it when their families read with them, even when children can read on their own. This time spent as a family creates a time to cuddle and love one another, deepens connections and builds imagination. There are so many ways to engage with your kids and build their learning some great examples are; telling stories, singing, silly rhymes, playing games and exploring outside. All of these special times spent together help kids to learn about their world.”

The free literacy celebration for Campbell River families wouldn’t be possible without the help of community partners and local businesses, Eddy says, including the Tidemark Theatre.

“We have this incredible program called Theatre Angels,” says Tidemark programming and marketing coordinator, Heidi Cuff. “Through it, we make tickets available to people and families in Campbell River with limited incomes to attend selected presentations throughout our season. This helps increase exposure to the arts and promotes inclusiveness of the theatre, as well as reaching youth and adults who wouldn’t necessarily have access to the arts otherwise.”

In order to respect the anonymity of recipients, tickets are given to local non-profit, charitable organizations for distribution. The program, which has expanded every year since its inception, supports many different organizations and the communities they serve.

Last year, the Tidemark and CRLA partnered to present a free concert with CBC Kids star Will’s Jams and tickets were scooped up in just a few weeks.

This year, on Jan. 26, award winning children’s author and storyteller, Michael Kusugak will be headlining the celebration.

Kusugak grew up in Repulse Bay, a small village in the Northwest Territories.

During his childhood, Kusugak’s family traveled by dog team; they lived in igloos in the winter and tents in the summer. He had no access to books as a child and didn’t speak a word of English until he was seven.

But In 1954, a float plane whisked him off to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet.

“When you’re seven years old and hauled away from your parents, it’s very hard,” he says. “I cried the whole year I was there — that’s all I remember. The following fall, when the airplane came again, I went and hid in the hills. I didn’t go to school that year.”

But Kusugak would go on to become one of the first Inuit from the eastern Arctic to graduate from high school, piecing together his education in Rankin Inlet, Yellowknife, Churchill and Saskatoon.

While in school, he enjoyed writing stories and poems, but he never thought of becoming an author until he met Robert Munsch.

“He stayed with us during Children’s Book Week once, and I told him all kinds of legends,” he says. “He suggested that I write them down, so we worked on one together, and eventually it was published.”

One of the most rewarding experiences for Kusugak is visiting children in schools and at libraries, he says, and it shows. He mesmerizes young audiences with narratives from his arctic home and tales told with string. He is a riveting performer sure to enthrall children of all ages – and the adults who come along, too.

Tickets for the Jan. 26 performance are free and can be reserved at the Tidemark Box Office Tuesday through Friday. First come, first served. Limit four per family.

For the full schedule of free events during Family Literacy Week, be sure to follow the Campbell River Literacy Association on Facebook (@CRLitAssociation). For more information about the Tidemark’s Theatre Angels Program or to donate, visit or call 287-PINK (7465).

RELATED: Family Literacy Week 2018 in Campbell River a chance to celebrate play

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