A local educator has been honoured with a prestigious award, following her outstanding contributions to youth literacy.
Tekeyla Friday, the children's programming director for the Chinook Regional Library, was presented the Leadership and Literacy Award, in honour of her work in teaching literacy skills to both adults and children.
"This has been the first time I've actually ever been nominated for anything," declared Friday. "So it meant quite a lot, especially in the areas of my passion."
Friday has been working for many years in the southwest region on helping to encourage and educate both young children and their families on the importance of developing literacy skills from an early age. She has been working with children as young as three weeks old, having their parents begin reading to them to help them develop communication skills from early on.
That's exactly why Friday made such a great fit for the award, being that it is selected for an individual or organization who has demonstrated leadership skills in their community, with a literacy component.
The work Friday does at the library falls in line with these criteria.
"It might be something such as a story time where I'm reading a story," described Friday while discussing her work duties. "But we're also learning language through songs and rhymes. [That] could be a baby steps program, which is songs and rhymes for infants."
Friday has a strong belief that reading to the very young has very strong benefits. She described the effects as having an impact on the child's ability to begin forming pathways in the brain's neurons, helping to develop communication patterns, as well as better comprehension.
And she has seen the benefits herself, with children who have been introduced at earlier ages having the advantage when school begins.
"I had a parent who had a young child that wasn't school age yet, but she wanted to start the child with some basic learning to read," remembered Friday. "I was able to offer advice and suggestions on how to start teaching a child to recognize words and letters."
The process of selecting the appropriate material for a young child involved combing through their beginner literature for kindergarteners and taking suggestions for the mother and offering advice based on that feedback.
"That particular child was reading at a grade one level by the time they were in kindergarten and they were just ecstatic about the books that were picked," Friday reminisced. "I feel very proud of myself for being that person that the parent could trust to come and ask for help as well as to be able to give some good resources."
This work has been carried out by Friday for many years, so when she learned she was winning an award in recognition of her efforts and success in her field, she became emotional.
"Though I tried not to show too much emotion," iterated Friday. "Because, finally someone was recognizing the work I've been doing, which I'm very appreciative of and I got to meet the Governor-General."
The Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Russ Mirasty, was able to present this prestigious award, which meant a great deal to Friday, who is Metis.
"[He] is an advocate for language himself, especially the first language," shared Friday. "Because that is something else I do believe in, is that if you speak another language in your home, that should be the first language children should learn."
It is an important belief for Friday that if a family speaks French, the child should learn French. The same goes for any language, such as Woodland Cree, the language that Mirasty grew up speaking with his grandparents.
Friday also took the time to thank her family, friends, co-workers and all the people who have helped her over the years.