London’s Festival of Trees

Authors being paraded in
Some of this year’s nominated Forest of Reading authors being ushered in

Last Friday I was invited to participate in a school field trip. It was one I had been looking forward to for the better part of a year. I attended London Ontario’s inaugural event last year, so there was no way I wanted to miss this year’s Festival of Trees. Who can resist a full-day literary reading event jam-packed with Canadian children’s authors, illustrators, books and literary activities? Not me!

Every year the Ontario Library Association (OLA) promotes children’s literacy through their Forest of Reading recreational reading program. They select several new Canadian books in several different categories; Blue Spruce (JK-2), Silver Birch (grades 3-6), Red Maple (grades 7-8), and White Pine (grades 9-12) in both fiction and non-fiction. The program opens in October with announcements of the nominated books and runs through to May when the Festival of Trees is held and winners announced. Over 250,000 readers participate in the annual event through schools and libraries across the province (and country).

Giant Word Games
Do you believe in Word Games?

My oldest daughter was invited to attend last year’s Festival of Trees, as she had read the minimum ten books required. My youngest daughter was sorely disappointed, as she too had read several of the books in her category, but as there were only authors from the Silver Birch and Red Maple categories she was unable to attend. There was no way either of them were going to miss this year’s event though, so as soon as nominations were up they were both reading like mad.

Mama was so proud!

So after having devoured most of the Silver Birch books and a good number of the Red Maples, my oldest got an invite. Not to be outdone, my youngest got her whole class on board reading for an invite for them all, which meant I too got to spend the day basking in the literary event. Sixteen authors were led into the hall and introduced by local school children. They all went on to take part in workshops and book signings, but there were also giant word games to play, a button making station, temporary tattoos, a photo booth, the Maker Bus, TVO kids, Forest City Velodrome and of course a book store where you could buy any of this year’s nominated books.

Jess Keating - author of 'How to Outrun a Crocodile when your Shoes are Untied'
One of the many workshops held throughout the day

I want to thank all the authors for not only coming up with their ideas for their books, but the drive to see them through to the end. Congrats to London Regional winners Cyndi Marko for winning Silver Birch Express, Anneliese Carr for winning the Silver Birch non-fiction, David Skuy for winning Silver Birch fiction, Rona Arato for winning Red Maple non-fiction and Caroline Pignat for winning Red Maple fiction. You are an inspiration to myself and all the children who were in attendance.

My daughter coming up with an acrostic poem inspired by the Festival of Trees
My daughter coming up with an acrostic poem inspired by the Festival of Trees

I want to thank the Canadian publishers who promote literacy in Canada and especially for young readers. Without you, those authors wouldn’t be there for us. Thanks too, to the OLA for organizing such a fantastic program and event. And thank you to Ms Phillips for allowing me to ride my children’s coat tails and attend this awesome day again.

But my deepest appreciation goes out to my children for loving books as much as I do. You inspire me to keep working on my own writing and give me the drive to hopefully see a book of my own in print one day. My words are for you.

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