For over 20 years, many thousands of children have been reading from the very best of Canadian children’s books and voting annually for their favourites in the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading® program.
The Forest of Reading® is Canada's largest recreational reading program! This initiative of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) offers eight reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages. The Forest® helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors and illustrators. More than 250,000 readers participate annually from their School and/or Public Library. All Ontarians/Canadians are invited to participate via their local public library, school library, or individually.
Beginning with the first program in 1994, children in grades 4-6 read from a list of 10 titles nominated titles and voted for the one they thought should win. This was known as the Silver Birch Award. The winner was announced at a celebratory lunch with the nominated authors and illustrators and hundreds of children in attendance. This initiative was an immediate success and soon grew into an annual program that just keeps getting bigger and better. This is a unique and special chance for Canadian authors and illustrators to be recognized by their readers and for children’s voices to be heard.
The “Forest” has now grown to include many “trees” and for readers of all ages:
- Blue Spruce™ for Grades jK to Grade 2 – picture books
- Silver Birch® for Grades 3-6 – fiction and non-fiction
- Red Maple™ for Grades 7 and 8 – fiction and non-fiction (every other year)
- White Pine™ for Grades 9-12 – fiction and non-fiction (every other year)
- Le Prix Peuplier – picture books
- Le Prix Tamarac – chapter books
- Le Prix Tamarac Express – shorter chapter books and mature picture books
- Golden Oak™ - fiction for adults learning to read and ESL
- Evergreen™ - fiction and non-fiction for adults of all ages
Lists of nominated titles are announced each October (except for Evergreen™ which begins in late January or early February), schools and libraries register for the program and then the reading begins! The official voting occurs in April and the award winners are announced in May over a 2-day extravaganza in Toronto known as the Festival of Trees™. The nominated authors and illustrators, along with thousands of readers, attend the Festival of Trees™ each year, and in addition to the awards ceremonies, there are author workshops, autographing sessions, entertainment and many other activities to add to the excitement. Regional Festivals are also held in select cities. London Public Library, along with the Thames Valley District School and the London District Catholic School Board, has hosted a regional Festival in 2014 and 2015 and plans are underway for 2016. These Festivals can only be compared to rock concerts for readers with cheering, clapping and screaming for their favourites. The experience is life-changing for many of these readers and authors are overwhelmed by the event. They truly are rock stars to these readers.
To learn more about the Forest of Reading®, visit its website. And if you want to discover some wonderful suggestions of Canadian books to read, check out the lists of nominated titles and the annual award winners.