Vancouver Tours Blog

ESL Book Review – Vancouver Stories

This simple, 50 -page book will give adult students a real grounding in Vancouver's past. It tells the stories behind four places whose names become known to anyone who spends time in Vancouver: Granville Island, Kitsilano, the Lions Gate Bridge, and Deadman's Island.

Although it's meant for literacy students, it can also help adult ESL students feel more at home in the city, whether they've settled there or are just there to study.

Most of the stories begin in the late nineteenth century, when Granville Street was a loggers' skid road, the width of a wagon. Of course, the city has changed greatly in some ways since then – in others, not so much. Political squabbles, Native land claims, and the homeless have been issues right from the beginning.

The book is written at a level suitable for upper intermediate to advanced students. The text is broken into sections with subheadings, which should probably be assigned one at time so students aren't overloaded with facts. It's illustrated with vintage photos. A separate workbook is available, but the text can stand on its own as the basis for a reading activity.

The subject matter, in places, is really only suitable for adults or mature adolescents. For example, one story tells how the city squabbled with the federal government over Deadman's Island, which meanwhile was being used as a quarantine station:

While the arguments went on, the island became a kind of "red light district" where the quarantined prostitutes, sailors and others were having quite a party.

The party's since been let out of quarantine, and maybe it's never really stopped. See what your students think.

Vancouver Stories: Places in its History, by Rene Merkel and Don Richardson, was published by the Province of BC in 1998. It is available from the Vancouver Community College bookstore (King Edward campus).

Source by Jane Wangersky

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