A Jarvis Traditional student brought home her school’s first award for writing in recent memory.
Fifth-grade student Shubnoor Chhena was one of only 30 contestants nationwide – excluding Ontario, which has its own separate contest – to receive an award of excellence for short-fiction from Young Writers, a division of the Poetry Institute of Canada.
Chhena, who started writing when she was only eight years old, said her love of literature was born out of a need for something only her favourite stories could bring.
“The real world gets a bit boring,” she said, adding that reading and writing is her way of escaping into the realm of the fantastical.
Chhena’s love of fantasy stories shows in her submission to Young Writers, which tells of a distant land in which dragons and humans clash over territory.
Besides writing, the fifth-grader said she also had some interest in teaching, among other things.
“I may [also] possibly work at a science institute but my main goal is to become a writer.”
Chhena’s teacher, Hazel Wallingford, described her as talented but sometimes liable to get lost in the clouds, not because she couldn’t focus, but because the coursework was just too easy for her, adding her pupil has always been reading and writing beyond her grade level.
Wallingford said reading Chhena’s work makes “you feel like you’re reading something written by somebody much older.”
Because of Chhena’s natural talent, Wallingford applied on her behalf to WriteStretch, a program for gifted students in Delta. Attached to the application was a sample of Chhena’s work from the previous year.
Wallingford had her class write diary entries as a kind of test for the unit they had just completed on the Underground Railroad. While the assignment only called for one journal entry, Chhena saw a chance to flex her literary muscles.
“Shubnoor wrote six or seven diary entries. One was [about] when she was a young child escaping from slavery right up to when she was on her deathbed,” Wallingford said.