11-year-old B.C. girl publishes Indigenous language book after winning UNESCO writing contest
Addy Newman-Ting is in the midst of building a miniature amusement park in her basement for a cast of eclectic characters.
“I like to put cute faces on them,” she says, showing CTV News chestnuts with googly-eye stickers and woodblocks with jiffy-marker smiles.
When Addy’s not crafting rides out of cardboard for them, the 11-year-old’s constructing stories about them on her computer.
“I just like writing,” she says. “It just comes out and it’s a good way to express things.”
Like the sorts of things you think about while growing-up in a multi-cultural family.
“My mom’s language is Mandarin and that’s spoken worldwide,” Addy explains. “But my dad’s (Indigenous) language is almost dead and gone.”
So when Addy heard about a youth writing competition organized by UNESCO, she wondered if this was her chance to raise global awareness about the traditional Kwak’wala language, and asked her dad, Carey Newman, for help.
“What do you do when your kid says that?” Carey smiles. “You say, ‘Of course! I’ll do everything I can to support you.’”
So Carey accepted the role of “research assistant” while Addy wrote the story. It’s about two friends who join forces with two talking animals to inspire a community to protect the environment and find their lost language.
“When she made this connection between land and language,” Carey begins saying, before stopping to fight back tears.
“Kids and their perspective have a way of cutting through all the politics and things and finding the purity of it.”
Addy ended up winning UNESCO's Voices of Future Generations project. Although she feels honoured and grateful that her book — “Finding the Language” — is being published, she’s not pursuing a career as a writer.
“I don’t think I want to be an author,” she says.
She says she wants do something more visually artistic (like what she’s building in her basement) when she grows up, but felt compelled to write the book.
“I want to do it now,” Addy explains. “Because I want the world to hear about it now.”
Now, before it’s too late to find what’s lost and create a real world like the imaginary ones she makes out of cardboard: a world that’s connected, caring, and inclusive.
“We shouldn’t make everybody the same,” Addy says. “We should celebrate each other’s differences.”