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David Bouchard

David Bouchard calls it a gift from his great-grandmoth­er: a passion for stories and the power of reading that has inspired children across Canada. As a young boy growing up in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, the award-winning author and advocate for literacy would visit the elderly woman almost every weekend at the local convent, where she lived as a cloistered nun. Bouchard, now 60, remembers sitting with her, separated by a grille, listening to her soothing voice and enveloped by her love. At the end of each visit, he would give Odille Allard most of his modest allowance in exchange for Communion wafers, which he'd munch with his friends like potato chips. Decades later, long after her death, Bouchard is convinced that his great-grandmother's spirit also helped him discover a secret that had long been hidden from him: the Metis heritage they shared. In his mid-4os, it was a life-changing revelation. "We believe if you open your heart to your genetic memo­ries," he says, "your life will be enriched tenfold."

Today, Bouchard is enrichingthe lives of children, par­ents and educators across Canada with his many books and frequent speaking engagements at schools and conferences. In captivating presentations often lasting more than an hour, he discusses the environment, his­tory and the traditions of Canada's Aboriginal peoples. He talks about his own Metis heritage and plays the Metis flute. The former teacher, now based in Victoria, also reads selections from his more than 70 books and tells students how reading will open new worlds and bring success. In recognition of his work as an author and a champion of literacy, he was named to the Order of Canada in 2010. Many of his books have been bestsellers, and some have won several prestigious awards, includ­ing a Governor General's Award, a Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. It's an impressive record for a man with dyslexia who says he never read a book from start to finish for pleasure until he was 27. But Bouchard says his own struggles with reading have given him a greater understanding of the bitter frustrations faced by children who wrestle with words. "I tell them that anyone can become a reader," he says. "Just find that one book."

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