Grade 4 class writes book to tell Viola Desmond's story to other kids

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Grade 4 class writes book to tell Viola Desmond's story to other kids

They're only in Grade 4, but students at a Nova Scotia elementary school have already helped to write a book that will be in classrooms across the province: The ABCs of Viola Desmond.

The book began as an entry into last year's African Nova Scotian history challenges held by Halifax's Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute. It's designed to teach students about black history and achievements. 

TheABC's of Viola Desmond launched today, and will be distributed to Grade 3 classrooms across Nova Scotia. 

"When I saw the book, I knew immediately it could be a classroom resource," Tony Colaiacovo, a publishing consultant with the learning institute, told CBC's Information Morning.

"It was just so outstanding."

'I learned a lot'

Caitlin Lee and Alexander Watters are nine years old and attend William King Elementary School in Herring Cove, N.S. They said while they had heard Viola Desmond's name, they didn't know anything about her before creating the book. 

Each child in their class drew a page and wrote the text for a letter of the alphabet. Alexander said he learned a lot about equality while writing and illustrating his part of the book. 

Caitlin also said the experience was eye-opening: "I learned that segregation is not very good. Like, I knew it wasn't good. But I didn't know that's how bad that was."

'Every child should know'

Their teacher, Beatrice MacDonald, said it was important for each child to participate in both writing and drawing. 

"So many of the children knew the story of Rosa Parks, but they didn't know the story of Viola Desmond, and that always bothered me."

"You know, we had Viola Desmond right here in our own province."

She said she hopes every child realizes why we have to move beyond discrimination to make sure everyone is considered equal.

The Department of Education provided assistance in crafting the final version of the book, which launched today at William King Elementary School. Special guests in attendance include Viola Desmond's sister, Wanda Robson — who also visited the class while they were making the book.

"We're very excited about [the book]," said Colaiacovo. "The kids really, really learned a lot, it was fun and I think it's just outstanding."