I recently read a tweet by CBC broadcaster, Jian Ghomeshi, in which he applauded Canada for being a country where authors are treated as rock stars. This acclamation came in response to the Giller Prize Awards which he had hosted the previous evening.
I must share. The one and only time I was able to attend the Festival of Trees - the culminating awards ceremony for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program, I was blown away with the same sentiment. A couple of years ago, on a sunny May day at Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto, I watched close to 4,000 elementary students scream like they were witnessing the arrival of the British Invasion, when their favourite author was introduced and walked across the stage. Later, they eagerly stood in line with nary a complaint, for what seemed like an eternity; clutching their copies of the nominated titles and waiting to say a few words to the author and have him or her sign their book. As a member of the children's literature community, it is an event to be experienced.
Similarly, I had the fortune to attend the TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards gala last month, in Toronto. Again, I witnessed the celebration of the written word and the elevation of Canadian authors to celebrity status. Like Mr. Ghomeshi, I too am proud to "live in a country where authors are rock stars."
As I write this, I am waiting for the delivery of my Forest of Reading titles. I have been answering students queries for weeks now about the books, and when we can get started. A few of the intermediate girls were so excited to hear that our school board has purchased copies of the nominated titles in eBook format. As a small school, we will definitely benefit from this freeing-up of hard copies.
At this time of year, I will finish up some of my personal reading choices and move on to the Forest titles. Over the next 6-8 weeks I will start to formulate some plans and ideas to help bring these books to life for the students who sign up for this extra-curricular reading group. I would love to hear from anyone else in the education and children's book community who are involved in the Forest of Reading.
For those readers who are not familiar with the program, it goes like this - nominated titles are made public by the selection committee in mid-October. The categories are arranged in the following manner:
Blue Spruce - students in JK- Grade 2.
Silver Birch - students in Grades 3-6. Fiction and Non-Fiction, with the Express list specially suited for students in grades 3 and 4.
Red Maple - students in Grades 7 and 8. Fiction. Non-Fiction titles are included in alternating years.
There is also a category for High School students (White Pine), French students (Le Prix Peuplier and Le Prix Tamarac), and Adult readers (Golden Oak and Evergreen).
Readers must read a minimum of 5 of the 10 nominated titles, in order to vote for their favourite in April. In May the winners are announced at Festival of Trees ceremonies in Toronto, London, and Thunder Bay.
The nominated titles for the 2014 Forest of Reading (Elementary School) can be found here.
Stay tuned for more Forest updates as the program progresses.