"There is a River" by Heather Chitty

By: Susan W. Smith

Volume 17, Issue 10, October 2022

Lucky girl – yes, I am a lucky girl as I was given a copy of “There is a River, a story of the magical St. Lawrence River and its Thousand Islands." It only took two minutes to realize that the book needs to be introduced to the Thousand Islands community.

So, I wrote to the author, Heather Chitty. who has worked for over 25 years in the education field. She has completed intensive training in the Orton-Gillingham (1) approach to teaching reading and re-directed her career to work specifically with children who have learning differences. Heather has worked for the BC Muslim School as a resource room teacher, as well as for the Learning Disabilities Association BC, and REACH Learning Centre. Since 2008, she has enjoyed being part of the team at The Reading Clinic in Kingston, ON, teaching reading and writing skills, and as the coordinator of the writing program.

Many of you may have met Heather through her popular book “River Reminiscing: An Anthology of Thousand Islands Stories”, published in 2021. But this little book is different; it’s like reading poetry about a place that you love.

Once I started to review the book, I had lots of questions to ask Heather.

Q. Was it written for children? If so, what inspired you? If not, how were you inspired to write such lovely words?

A: Thank you, Susie. Yes, it was written specifically for children. When I returned to the area after living on the West Coast, I was thrilled to be back on the River, and dove into reading more about the history, and wildlife species, and all things River. Friends and family had children and grandchildren, and, at that time, I couldn't find any books for families to share with their children about the River, which is such a significant part of our lives.

That's where the idea came to write a book for the "River children" as I call them. Since then, Silvana Gargione has published her “ABC's of the River” book.

Q. How long did this project take? What did you have in mind when you started?

It didn't actually take very long because I've been taking River photos for many years, and so had many to choose from. After the idea came to me, the text flowed very easily and quickly; I guess my love of the River just flowed out.

When I started writing, I wanted the book to be filled with the beauty and magic of the River and its inhabitants, for children to enjoy on their holidays, and to look forward to re-visiting after the winter. For the children who live year-round on the River, it's a celebration of their backyard, which is so unique and stunningly beautiful. I hoped it would inspire kids to watch out for fox, or deer, or ospreys when touring with family on the water.

Q: Who took the photographs? They are lovely. Especially the first one with the Thousand Islands Association (TIA) marker sitting in a section of the River I know well.

A: With the exception of the close-up shots of a hummingbird, dragonfly, and osprey, all of the photos are ones I've taken while I've been on the River kayaking, boating, or visiting the islands. I love taking pictures of the markers. I don't know what it is about them, but there are some that I just love, especially the ones north of McDonald Island where I cross Steamboat Channel in my kayak. (A fabulous name we found on an old river map, and which brings to mind the great steamboat era on the River).

Q. What photographs are your favorite?

I was happy with the cover photo, too! I loved getting The Towers in the background, but also the marker to the left, and the colour of the river was beautiful that day. My favourite shot might be the young fox sunning on the dock.

I was kayaking north of Cherry Island, off Gananoque, on a beautiful, sunny, quiet day, and I rounded a dock only to find this small red fox soaking up the sun. She stayed and allowed me to take a picture of her from the kayak. It was a thrill!

Q. Heather, I know your background, and you are a teacher of special education and reading. I think you hit this one out of the park. Do you use it in your teaching?

Susie, that means so much to me coming from you. Thank you again. Yes, I do teach reading and writing to children with dyslexia, and I have used this book in my sessions. I actually love to show it to my writing students to encourage them that they, too, can become authors and turn their stories into books.

Q: Where is it available to be purchased?

It's available at the 1000 Islands History Museum on the waterfront in Gananoque. I'm happy to say that the museum has just requested a second order, as they're either sold out or are very close to being sold out. They're in the process of getting more printed now, and I expect the books will be back on the shelf at the museum in October.

Q: Somehow, I don't think you have stopped creating; what’s next?

I am designing my TruePhonics materials and when the material is finished next year, it will be copyrighted as The Boys and Girls Clubs material, and they will distribute them.

Well, Heather, we’ll look forward to more creative material from you. This new project sounds interesting, and more importantly, very worthwhile. And while the young reading world waits, we will just enjoy “The River, the Magical St. Lawrence River and its Thousand Islands.

By Susan W. Smith

[Footnote 1: Orton–Gillingham is a structured literacy approach. It introduced the idea of breaking reading and spelling down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, and then building on these skills over time.]

[See Reminiscing: An Anthology of Thousand Islands Stories, by H.D. Chitty  book review: https://thousandislandslife.com/books/river-reminiscing-an-anthology-of-thousand-islands-stories/

Posted in: Volume 17, Issue 10, October 2022, Book review

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