For anyone not familiar with the program, the Forest of Reading® is a series of seven reading programs hosted by the Ontario Library Association each year. The catagories are based on age and reading level:
For younger readers:
Blue Spruce™Awards Reading Program (primary–grade 2 picture books)
Silver Birch® Awards Reading Program (grades 3–6 fiction, non-fiction)
Silver Birch Express™ Awards Reading Program (grades 3–4 fiction, non-fiction)
Red Maple™ Awards Reading Program (grades 7–8 fiction, non-fiction)
White Pine™ Awards Reading Program (high school fiction)
Le Prix Tamarack™ (french fiction, non-fiction grades 3–6)
Readers from across the province and throughout Canada are invited to participate by reading a selection of books by Canadian authors and illustrators. Reading begins between October and November, and upon completing the books, readers vote on their favourites. The program concludes with a massive two-day festival with thousands of students attending, as well as many of the nominated authors and illustrators. I participated in the festival back in 1997, and had a blast. This year, I have the opportunity to be one of the people who helps make it happen.
With the set-up slated to begin at eight o’clock, I had to head out at Dark.
Six o’clock am, waiting for the bus – look who finally decided to show up.
The festival itself has expanded significantly from the days when I was a participant; in addition to the award ceremonies and author signings, there are now a variety of workshops, live music and games available throughout the two days. It now takes up the whole of Harbourfront Centre here in Toronto.
Kiddos taking a break from the autograph lines.
The main stage.
The craft tent for the Blue Spruce kids. (Before the mayhem.)
More of the main stage – complete with band – and more of the crowd.
The main stage from inside the shade of a tent. For anyone wanting to attend in the future, sunscreen is a must – we couldn’t have had a nicer day if we’d ordered it.
I’ll do a more thorough recap after the festival is over, but for now I’ll say, “Wow!” The staff and volunteers are truly incredible. Admittedly, I’m at the bottom of the volunteer food chain, so maybe I missed out on the disasters, headaches, and last-minute panics, but everything is so well planned and organized. (Then again, what else can you expect when your volunteer team and planning committees are made up of librarians, teachers, and information professionals? Organization is what we do!)
And the kids? In a word: awesome. I helped to run the ring-toss game for most of the afternoon, and had a student ask if this was one of the games where participants could win free books. When we replied that they won candy instead, the kid screwed up his face and replied, “Candy? Books are way better!”
Thanks, bud. You’ve given me new hope for the next generation. (And yeah, this game is way harder than it looks*.)
*More pictures can be found on the Festival of Trees website in the coming days, or via the OLA’s Twitter feed – @OLALibraryAssoc