Today was an exciting day in my world. It was high time for a field trip. Not just any field trip either; this one was all about books. My favourite things! Even better, this involved children’s authors—where the love of reading begins. Today, I had the privilege to attend the Festival of Reading with my daughter’s school in London, Ontario.
Festival of Reading
For those who haven’t heard of the Festival of Reading before, it is the culmination of the Forest of Reading recreational reading program. It is a superb program run through the Ontario Library Association (OLA), which promotes Canadian children’s authors. It is geared to school and public libraries, as well as individual readers. Every year, ten recently published authors/ books are nominated in each of five English and three French categories. The English categories are;
- Blue Spruce (JK – grade 2, picture books)
- Silver Birch (grades 3-6, fiction & non-fiction)
- Silver Birch Express (grades 3 -4, fiction & non-fiction)
- Red Maple (grades 7 – 8, fiction, non-fiction every other year)
- White Pine ( grades 9 – 12, fiction, non-fiction every other year)
The Forest of Reading program is designed to encourage young readers and by the turnout at London’s very first Festival of Reading, I’d say that we’ve got a few young readers in our midst. There were 1500 tickets available and the event was sold-out. Wow!
Festival Lineup of Events
So who did we have the pleasure of seeing today? There were 14 authors who took to the opening stage to thundering applause. Local students introduced each author with brief bios, then the author had a chance to say a few words. We were treated to the sight of Silver Birch Nominees Kevin Sylvester, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, Kari-Lynn Winters, Natalie Hyde, Janet Wilson, Claire Eamer, Kim Thompson, Allan Stratton, Ria Voros, and David Carroll, as well as Red Maple authors Eric Walters, Cynthia D’Entremont, Joanne Levy, and K. L. Armstrong. It was a star-studded line-up that impressed kids and adults alike.
After the opening ceremony, the audience broke up into smaller groups to attend author workshops, get autographs, make buttons, buy books, get tattoos, check out the Hip Hop Movement, sign the Graffiti Wall, participate in a drum circle, or make their own words at the Giant Word Game. It was a busy place.
I was with a group of eight girls and we had the pleasure of listening to and asking questions of Allan Stratton, Ria Voros, and David Carroll. They were all vibrant authors, who were a pleasure to hear speak. And man, did they know how to work their audience, made up mostly of children from grades 4 – 8.
On a personal level, I found it inspiring to hear the authors speak about their craft. I would have loved to speak with all the authors individually, but today was about the children and their love of reading. So I sat back, enjoyed the smiles on everyone’s faces, and gave thanks that I was able to take part in such a fabulous day.
Congratulations to all the authors who attended the festival today and thank you to all of them for taking the time to excite the love of reading in the children in attendance. You do all writers proud!