Western University, Department of Communication & Public Affairs
Westminster Hall, Suite 360, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7
Tel: 519-661-2045 • Fax: 519-661-3921
Alumna is Franklin the Turtle creator
The most important years in a child’s development are between “the womb and six years old” says a woman whose children’s literature is among the most beloved in the country.
“Everything we become as adults is set in the early years,” Paulette Bourgeois, BSc’74, LLD ’07, told graduates from the faculties of Education and Graduate Studies when she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2007 in recognition of her accomplishments as an author.
Bourgeois graduated from Western in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy and later studied journalism at Carleton University. Her first book in the internationally renowned, award-winning series of 26 Franklin the Turtle books was Franklin in the Dark, published in 1986. The Franklin books sold over 50 million copies in 31 countries and have been translated into 17 languages.
In 2003, she was made a Member of the Order of Canada. Bourgeois has received several Canada Council grants and numerous Children’s Choice Awards from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
In her citation, Thelma Sumsion, Director of Western’s Department of Occupational Therapy Department, described Bourgeois as a woman whose work has made immeasurable contributions to the lives of children.
“Franklin has taught them many valuable lessons, including some of which are very appropriate to today’s graduates. These include, if you have a bad day you should not scream at your mom, you don’t have to be the fastest, and whether you win or lose you are still a good player,” said Sumsion.
Bourgeois spoke of her concern that there still is no national child-care policy in Canada. “It’s not about babysitting,” she said. “It’s about early learning.”
Recent research revealing that adolescent brains are different from adults was noted by Bourgeois who decried the lack of change in school systems to alter class start times for these students.
“They’ve discovered that students who got A and B averages got as little as 25 minutes more sleep a night,” she said. “But changing the curriculum seems to be too difficult or costly. “But they don’t connect that with drop-out rates or behaviour in the classroom.”
Bourgeois closed her talk asking the graduates, “Who’s going to make that change?” “I hope it’s someone who’s sitting here today.”
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