London Welcomes the First Festival of Reading

It was an exciting day today in my world. Time for a field trip! Not just any field trip either, but one that involved books. My favourite things! I had the privilege to attend the Festival of Reading today with my daughter’s school in London, Ontario.

For those who haven’t heard of the festival before, it is the culmination of the Forest of Reading recreational reading program. It is a super 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)
1,000 Readers at London
I was at the back of the audience, but still thrilled to attend London’s first Festival of Reading!

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 a sold-out day. Wow!

We were treated to a reading from Allan Stratton
We were treated to a reading from Allan Stratton

So who did we have the pleasure of seeing today? There were 14 authors that took to the opening stage to plenty of applause. Local students introduced each author with brief bios, then the actual author had a chance to say hello. 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 the kids and adults alike were impressed with.

The girls all enjoyed making words. Perhaps I was in the company of some future authors today?
The girls all enjoyed making words. Perhaps I was in the company of some future authors today?

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 that 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 them 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 thanks to all of them for taking the time to excite the love of reading in the children there even more.

You do all writers proud!

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