BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English - Reader 1

BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English - Reader 1

Shantel Ivits


Victoria, B.C.



Table of Contents

Accessibility Statement vi
About the Book xi
Acknowledgements xiii
Notes to the Instructor 1
Sweetgrass 2
A New Flower 7
The Sack Garden 18
Val’s Garden 23
GM Food 28
Tomatoes 33
Grow Your Own Tomatoes 38
Canada’s Tallest Tree 43
Arctic Plants 48
Image Attributions 56
Bibliography 60
About the Author 62
Versioning History 64


Accessibility Statement

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About the Book

BCcampus Open Education began in 2012 as the B.C. Open Textbook Project with the goal of making post-secondary education in British Columbia more accessible by reducing student costs through the use of openly licensed textbooks and other OER. BCcampus supports the post-secondary institutions of British Columbia as they adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices to enable powerful learning opportunities for the students of B.C. BCcampus Open Education is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training, and the Hewlett Foundation.

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These books were developed on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Huy tseep q’u! Chen kw’enmántumiyap! Kw’as hoy!

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on this project alongside a dedicated team of basic education instructors from across British Columbia. This series was shepherded by Leanne Caillier-Smith (College of the Rockies) and benefited enormously from the insight and encouragement of Julia Dodge (University of the Fraser Valley), Chandra McCann (Okanagan College), Jan Weiten (Vancouver Community College), and Melinda Worfolk (College of New Caledonia). The above five mentioned are representatives of the BC Adult Literacy Articulation Committee and were the advisory committee members for this project. It has been a pleasure to scaffold my own learning among such brilliant and passionate educators.

Huge thanks to Lauri Aesoph of BCcampus for introducing me to the exciting open textbook movement and managing all aspects of the publication of these books  — from layout and image selection to copyediting and print – so adeptly.

I am incredibly lucky to work with and have the support of the Basic Education Department at Vancouver Community College: Rita Acton, Cynthia Bluman, Andrew Candela, Lynn Horvat, Alayna Kruger, Jo Lemay, Edie Mackenzie, Rene Merkel, Tara Mollel, Leah Rasmussen, Linda Rider, Mary Thompson-Boyd, Jan Weiten, and our Dean, David Wells. I am also deeply grateful to the basic education students at Vancouver Community College for all that you teach me about dreams, resilience, and perseverance.

A special thank you to my partner, Marria, for always lending my words an eager ear, and for keeping the world around me turning even though my head was perpetually stuck in these books.


Notes to the Instructor

I have often struggled to find reading materials that rise to the wisdom that Level 1 learners so often bring to the classroom, while still drawing on plain language. So I sought to write texts about things that really matter: healing, discovery, survival, relationships, justice, and connection to the land. I explored these themes through the lens of the plant world.

This reader contains nine original stories written specifically for adults and is designed to accompany the BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English – Course Pack 1. This level 1 reader, one of a series of six readers, is roughly equivalent to beginner to Grade 1.5 in the K-12 system.

Font size and line spacing can be adjusted in the online view and have been enhanced for the print and PDF versions for easier reading. This reader has been reviewed by subject experts from colleges and universities.

I hope these pages help ignite in your students a lifelong love of reading and discovery.

—Shantel Ivits



A teenager sits on the street beside a backpack. A sign saying "Hungry. Anything helps. Thanks!"

Max used to live on the street. Now he lives in a house for other kids from the street.


A teenager smiles at a man. They both sit on a bench.One of the workers at the house is named Dan. Dan is Cree like Max.


A teenager and a man kneel in tall grass. The man reaches down and touches the grass.One day, Dan takes Max to pick sweetgrass. They walk out onto the wetland. The sweetgrass is very tall. It bends when they step on it. But it does not break. Dan says, “The sweetgrass tells us to be kind when we are hurt.”


A teenager and man pick tall grass, leaving the roots in the earth.Dan asks the sweetgrass if he can pick it. Then Dan and Max pick what they need. They leave the roots in the land. This way, the sweetgrass will grow again next year.


A teenager holds a long grass braid, grinning.After that, they make the sweetgrass into a braid. Dan tells Max that sweetgrass takes away bad feelings. It makes room for happy feelings. So Max keeps the sweetgrass close.


A New Flower

A large airplane in flight. Taken from below.My grandma has never been on a plane. But she gets on a plane when she is 82 years old. She gets on a plane to see me.


Daisies grow near a sidewalk. People walk past.

One day, we go for a walk. She likes the flowers on my street.


Back home, she has many garden beds. She is in three flower clubs. She puts her plants in flower shows. She knows a lot about flowers.


Close-up of a purple coneflower, with long petals and a spiky centre.But today she sees a flower she has not seen before. “What is this?” Grandma asks.


A young man with dark hair, a beard, and round stud earrings leans against a chain-link fence.My friend Dave knows. He tells her what the flower is. She looks at Dave for a long time.


A man stands in a clearing in the woods wearing an orange hat and carrying a rifle.

Back home, men hunt.


A man wearing a camouflage jacket holds a fishing rod beside a river.

Back home, men fish.


A man plows a field with a tractor.

Back home, men farm.


A bearded man and a sunflower.

But back home, men do not know about flowers.


An older woman in a white blouse smiles slightly behind her glasses.

She takes this in. She smiles. Then we go on.


Close-up of a flower pot of pink and purple daisies.

She hopes to see more flowers she has never seen before.


The Sack Garden

A woman holds a naked baby. She sits by a pre-teen boy and an even younger boy

This is Meg. Meg lives in South Africa. She has three kids.


A woman, holding a baby, and her two sons look dejected. One holds his stomach.

It is hard to feed her kids. White people own most of the farmland in South Africa. Meg does not have land for a garden. Food costs a lot of money.


Hands handle a sack of dirt and rocks. In the sack are green peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and peas.

But Meg has a very good way to grow food. She finds a big sack. She puts rocks in the middle of the sack. She fills the rest of the sack with dirt. She makes little holes in the side of the sack. She puts a tomato plant in one hole. She puts a bean plant in one hole. She puts a green pepper plant in one hole. She puts eggplant in the top of the sack. She waters the sack garden from the top.


A woman waters a garden growing in a sack.

Her garden does not need much water. Her garden does not need much room. Her garden does not cost much money to make. Her garden does not have many weeds.


A woman holding a baby grins with her two sons. They sit by a sack of dirt and a vegetable basket.

Now Meg can feed her kids.


Val's Garden

A person with a lip ring and a tattoo accepts a box of vegetables from a short, old woman.

I am new to the city. I do not know anyone. But an old woman lives next door. Her name is Val. She gives me a big box of vegetables.


An old woman holds and talks to a bunch of carrots. She leans on the edge of a lively box garden.

She grows them in a garden by the sidewalk. There are carrots, tomatoes, beans, and peas. They are the best vegetables I ever ate. Val lives alone, too. But she seems happy in her garden. She loves those plants. Sometimes, I can hear her talking to them. Maybe that is why they grow so big.


A box garden full of weeds and dead plants.One day, I stop seeing Val in the garden. I see people take many boxes from her home. Weeds grow in her garden. The dirt is dry. The plants look sad. Val must have passed on.


A person leans over a box garden, talking to it. Beside them is a watering can and trowel.

So I pull the weeds. I water the garden. I even talk to the plants.


A person standing outside a front door holds a huge box of vegetables. Beside them is a sold sign.

Then a family moves next door. They are new to the city. They do not know anyone. And I give them a big box of vegetables from Val’s garden.


GM Food

A farmer stands in a field full of low, yellow-leafed plants.

It is hard to be a farmer. Cold weather can kill your crops. Bugs can eat your crops. Weeds can hurt your crops. Your crops may need more rain than they get. Fruits and vegetables can go bad before they are sold. Some people say farmers can fix all this with GM food.


Scientists examine plants in jars in a lab full of jars on shelves.

What is GM food? All living things have DNA. DNA tells living things how to grow. These days, people can change the DNA that tells food how to grow. When people change the DNA of food, it is called GM food.


Rolling fields of crops.

Some GM food can grow in cold weather. GM food can stop bugs from eating it. GM fruits and vegetables can stay good longer. One day, GM food may be able to grow in dry land in Africa. It will feed people who do not have much food.


People march, carrying signs like "Say no to GMO." Some wear hazmat suits.

But there is a lot we do not know about GM food. Will GM companies help poor people grow food? Or do GM companies just want to get rich? Does GM food kill bugs we need, like butterflies? Does GM food make birds sick? Does GM food make people sick? We do not know. There have not been many tests on GM food.


A woman in a grocery store looks at the shelves, holding a box of pasta.

Do you think farmers should grow GM food?



Close-up of a ripe, red tomato.

The tomato is from South America. When the tomato came to Europe, people did not eat it. Doctors said it would make them sick. So people just grew tomatoes because they looked nice.


A person squeezes ketchup onto a hamburger.

Now people from all over the world eat tomatoes. Tomatoes are used in sauce, soup, juice, salsa, and ketchup. The tomato is very good for you. Only a tomato leaf or stem will make you sick.


People standing in a tub of tomato pulp toss it onto a shirtless man lying down.

People do odd things with tomatoes. People grow tomatoes in space. There is a big tomato fight every year in Spain. A long time ago, people would toss a bad tomato when they saw a show they did not like.



A woman picks small tomatoes in a field and places them in plastic baskets in a produce box.

In Canada, many tomatoes are grown on big farms. The farms bring in poor people from far away to help grow tomatoes. Without these workers, the farms could not run. But the workers do not get much money. Canada does not let the workers stay here. Many people say this is not fair.


A tomato plant on an apartment balcony. No fruit is visible yet.

Most farms pick tomatoes before they are ripe. They last longer this way. But these tomatoes do not taste as good. So lots of people grow their own tomatoes.


Grow Your Own Tomatoes

A woman holds several tomatoes to her chest, smiling.

Tomatoes that you grow are better than tomatoes that you buy. You can grow tomatoes inside if you do not have a garden.

You need:


A plant pot full of dirt.

Fill the pot with potting soil. Pack the soil down a little bit. Put a seed on top of the soil. Add a bit more soil on top.



A metal watering can sitting on a patio table.

Add water. The soil must always be a bit wet. Seeds like to be warm. Put your pot in a warm place. It does not need sun yet.


A tomato plant grows on a window sill. No fruit is visible yet.

The plant will grow above the soil. Put the plant by a window. The plant needs four hours of sun a day. You can tie the stem to a stick to help the plant stay up. Always keep the soil a bit wet.


A woman holds a half-eaten tomato. She has a goldfish tattoo on the inside of her wrist.

Pick the tomatoes when they are the same red colour top to bottom. Enjoy!


Canada's Tallest Tree

A man in a raincoat stands in a misty forest of tall, thin trees.

A man named Randy liked to hunt trees. He looked for big trees and old trees. He made maps to show where these trees were. He did not want to cut them down. He wanted people to take care of them.


A coniferous tree with a thick trunk and feathery branches.

Randy was told of a very tall tree on Vancouver Island. The tree was said to be 314 feet tall. That would make it the tallest tree in Canada. Randy set out to find the tree.


A man wearing a hard hat and ear protection rappels down a tree. A chainsaw dangles from his belt.

But someone else found it first. It was found by a logger. Loggers wanted to cut down Canada’s tallest tree and all the trees around it.


A forest with a sign saying "Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park."

Randy made a path in the forest so people could see the tall tree. The tree was so big and beautiful it would fill them with awe. More and more people wanted to save that forest. Thanks to these people, that forest is now a park. Canada’s tallest tree is still there.


A clearcut forest. The ground is covered with logs and branches. No trees are standing.

There may still be a bigger tree out there. Maybe you will find it. But there are only a few old forests left in BC. Many are still at risk of being cut down.


Arctic Plants

A bright yellow dandelion grows out of a crack in the sidewalk.

Some plants grow in land that is rich. Some plants grow where there is a lot of sun. These plants do very well. But there is something beautiful about plants that grow against the odds.


A rocky landscape covered in snow and ice

Way up in the arctic, the land is cold and hard. The winter is long and dark. But the arctic plants find a way to get by.


A small white flowering plant grows in front of low-growing brush.

Summer comes for just a few weeks. The ice turns to water. Plants begin to grow.


Moss grows on rocks on the ground. In the background, hikers go past.

Arctic moss grows on the land. It adds a bit of heat so that other plants can grow, too.


Small purple flowers grow on the ground near lichen or moss.

Arctic plants stay together. When they stay together, the cold winds are not so bad.


Low-growing branches sprout a few leaves. Nearby grass is pale.

In other places, trees try to grow to the sky. But they would not last in the arctic. So the arctic willow is not like the other trees. The arctic willow grows on its side. It grows along the land. This may be odd, but it works.


Small yellow poppies bloom from a tiny bush on rocky ground.

The sun is out all day and all night. But the sun will go away soon. So the arctic poppy always looks on the bright side. The arctic poppy always faces the sun.


A single purple flower and its leafs poke out of the snow.

Yes, there is something beautiful about plants that grow against the odds.


Image Attributions


All drawings in Sweetgrass are by Carlee Ashton Diabo and are used under a CC BY 4.0 Licence.

A New Flower

The Sack Garden

All drawings in The Sack Garden are by Carlee Ashton Diabo and are used under a CC BY 4.0 Licence.

Val’s Garden

All drawings in Val’s Garden are by Carlee Ashton Diabo and are used under a CC BY 4.0 Licence.

GM Food


Grow Your Own Tomatoes

Canada’s Largest Tree

Arctic Plants



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About the Author

Portrait of a person with short hair and dark-rimmed glasses, smiling.

Shantel Ivits is an instructor in the Basic Education Department at Vancouver Community College, on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

Shantel has designed curricula for the National Film Board of Canada, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, and many community-based projects.

Over the past decade, they have taught in literacy programs, university bridging programs, an ESL academy, and K-12 public schools.

They hold a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Trent University, as well as a Bachelor of Education and a Master of Arts in Educational Studies from the University of British Columbia.

Shantel identifies as a queer and trans person with white settler privilege. Their goal as an educator is to help people build their capacity to reach their goals and create more socially just communities.

Shantel also enjoys raising awareness that “they” can be used as a singular pronoun!


Versioning History

This page provides a record of edits and changes made to this book since its initial publication in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. Whenever edits or updates are made in the text, we provide a record and description of those changes here. If the change is minor, the version number increases by 0.01. If the edits involve substantial updates, the version number increases to the next full number.

The files posted by this book always reflect the most recent version. If you find an error in this book, please fill out the Report an Open Textbook Error form.

Version Date Change Details
1.00 November 9, 2015 Added to the B.C. Open Textbook Collection.
1.01 June 12, 2019 Updated the book’s theme. The styles of this book have been updated, which may affect the page numbers of the PDF and print copy.
1.02 March 25, 2020 Improvements to PDF style and accessibility. Added Alt Text to all images, added an accessibility statement, made text larger in PDFs, and provided URLs in Print PDF.