Reading is so fantastic and integral to society that its been given its own holiday. And while most book lovers already read on a daily basis, it’s wonderful to advocate literacy just as often. At least it has a day dedicated to itself in which people are encouraged to read and to honour a genuine love of books.
While this holiday is recognized in the USA and is primarily targeted towards the advocacy of literacy for children, literacy and the love of reading can be celebrated by anyone anywhere.
With the number of publishers and imprints in Canada, the number of genres to choose from, and the number of Canadian authors who are highly acclaimed, the written word has never been more ripe than it is now. Even with the evolution of technology and the way in which people read, there seems to be a continual commitment to producing the best and most diversified forms of literature.
And though there has been a general fear in the decline of both books in print and/or bookstores, there still remains an avid group of readers that devotedly borrow, buy, collect, and read books.
Reading is not to be underrated in its importance both in a general understanding for the individual to survive and function successfully in society, but also the way in which reading builds confidence, and an opportunity to actively participate in the gift of creativity and imagination. Literature as art not only shares stories with its audience as a form of performance and entertainment, but can also house a significant comment on society at large, and can be both a reflection of society, as well as a catalyst for its change.
If anything, the works of our time can showcase and encourage important dialogue about who we are and where we are going. Stories, too, are treasure troves of the semantics of language, narrative, dialogue—all lexicons of how we think, speak, and interact with one another.
While writers can range from the obscure to the fully formed and realized literary idols, they are in essence the gatekeepers to the language and life others know, but cannot articulate.
In honour of National Reading Day, let’s relish in the ability we have to read, but also the freedom in which we can choose what to read.
Perhaps in celebration of National Reading Day,you could do (one of) the following:
make a book recommendation to someone personally or online
lend a highly recommended book to a friend or family member who’s hesitant to read
trade a book with a fellow bibliotaphe
donate some well-loved books to a book charity
join a book club
create a book club
create a reading room
host a book giveaway
host a book party
donate money to a book foundation
in lieu of toys, commit to buy books for children instead
allot time in your day/evening to read
commit to reading with your child(ren) on a daily basis
take your children to your local, public library and register them for a new library card
take your children to a local book store to browse and see what kind of books interest them
volunteer at your local library to tutor others in reading
become a reading buddy
write a thoughtful fan letter to one of your favourite authors
write a thoughtful letter of thanks to one of your former English teachers
make a reading list and commit to reading each title until it’s completed
My family continues to enjoy its quiet time to read. While we haven’t visited the public library in a little while, we have kept our family tradition of visiting our local book store. And so here is my family’s reading picks of the week:
My husband recently landed a lucrative position at York University and is now privileged to read on his way to work during his morning and evening commute. While he’s often complained he hasn’t had enough time to read, his new job now affords him that opportunity. Esly’s pick of the week is:
A Prayer for Owen for Owen Meany by John Irving
Michael continues to enjoy grade three and actively participates in the Reading at Home Program (R.A.H.) initiated by his school where he’s committed to reading a a book or chapter a day while his progress is monitored by both parent(s) and teacher. The wonderful news is that since he’s started participating in this program three years ago, he’s had a perfect reading record—and a positive and excited attitude towards reading!
Michael’s pick of the week is:
The Star Wars Trilogy: Return of the Jedi
Mercedes is only three-years-old and while she doesn’t yet know how to read, she loves to imagine herself doing so. She loves choosing her books and putting them into my lap so that we can enjoy some quiet reading time together. If I’m not reading a story to her, she’s making up a story from her own imagination as she turns each page in a book. Mercedes’ pick for this week is:
Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book
My To-Be-Read (and Reviewed) Pile continues to explode off my shelves, so it’s important that I continue to press on. I just recently finished reading The Dinnerby Herman Koch and am now enjoying a memoir called:
Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory
What kind of bookish activities do you and your family enjoy together? Are you all active readers?
Have you ever thought of creating a book club for your family?
If you live in Ontario, Canada and have a young one up to the age of six, then an Ontario Early Years Centre is perfect for you!
I recently learned of the OEYC and its accessibility from a neighbourhood mom while strolling home with my daughter. Once I did a little research I was pleased to find out that a location was merely a 10-minute walk from my house!
The Ontario Early Years Centre Program
An Ontario Early Years Centreis a place for children up to the age of six and their parents and caregivers to take part in programs and activities together. Parents and caregivers can also get information about their children’s development and about services to support that development from the Early Childhood Educators on site.
And the even better news is that the programs and services are free to all parents and caregivers of young children who attend the program!
Here are the activities available through the OYEC:
Early learning and literacy programs for parents and children.
Programs to help parents and caregivers in all aspects of early child development.
Programs on pregnancy and parenting.
Links to other early years programs in the community.
Outreach activities so all parents can get involved with their local Ontario Early Years Centre.
My three-year-old daughter, Mercedes, and I have been actively attending our OYEC at least once a week now for about a month and have thoroughly enjoyed it!
The Centre we visit is open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and re-opens from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays. It’s also open on Saturdays for those who are available on the weekend. We’re lucky in that the centre we visit runs on a drop-in schedule and only requires registration for the first time you and your child attends.
Mercedes always looks forward to going and refers to it as “little school.”
Once there, we are able to visit the different activity centres that promote early learning through play and interaction. And Mommy, Daddy, or the caregiver is right there with the child to actively participate too!
At yesterday’s visit, our centre celebrated its 10th year anniversary and yes, one of the highlights for my daughter was the cake! But education and fun is had on regular days, too, where Mercedes has enjoyed the following activities/activity centres:
The Reading Lounge
writing, drawing on paper and the chalkboard
playing at the train set table
The Blocks and Building Centre – blocks, link blocks, cars, dinosaurs, magnets etc.
The Role Play Centre – dolls, dress-up costumes
The Toddler Centre – steering wheel, toys, puzzles
The Craft and Exploring Centre – drawing, painting, crafts, play-dough, play kitchen
The Quiet Room – a great place to read together, play with flashcard games, look at specimens
The Snack Centre and Kitchenette – where the children have a spot to wash their hands (in a sink their size!) and eat snacks provided by their parent(s)/caregiver.
Mercedes and I visit each activity centre with ease and interest. Aside from playing and learning, she’s also getting exposed to interacting with other children before attending Junior Kindergarten next September, which is perfect for her because she’s shy.
She especially enjoys Circle Time at the end of each session and has enjoyed singing, dancing, and playing instruments once we’re home, too, to reiterate what she’s learned. Her favourite songs include:
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
The Wheels on the Bus
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon!
If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands…
(Okay, I’ll admit it—I enjoy singing and playing along, too!)
It’s not only a great source of fun for the kids, it’s also a space for parents to build friendships, and have access to early years educational information and services.
If you’ve got a little one at home and would like to expose your child to literacy and learning, be sure to take advantage of the Ontario Early Years Centre near you.
For more information on the program and its locations, you can visit the website.
In what ways can you think of to improve a child’s literacy?
What was your favourite form of play and learning in school as a young child?
How do you feel about the implementation of “All-Day Kindergarten” in Ontario?
It was a fantastic book and magazine festival in Toronto yesterday. Queen’s Park was strewn with white tents filled with books, authors, publishers, and registered charities all advocating literacy and a crowd of avid readers and writers that visited each tent with a buzzing fervour.
I was so glad to be able to get there relatively early at 11:30 a.m and make it a fun, full day for the family. We actually left Queen’s Park at 5:00 p.m.
Here are some of the highlights of the festival that made our experience worthwhile:
For those of you who don’t know, this is on site where I used to work as an editorial assistant for UCPH! I used to walk these halls with a coffee in my hand, readying myself for an upcoming Resource Coordination meeting. And here I am, now, with my kids on a weekend ready for the adventure of The Word on the Street at Queen’s Park! Let’s go!
Simon and Schuster Canada
And what tent did we hit right out of the Queen’s Park subway Station? One of my favourite publishers that I just started to review books for: Simon & Schuster Canada! And while my children scored Olivia the Pig tiaras, I bought super-cheap, but super-great books:
And while the kids missed seeing Olivia the Pig, in “pig-son,” they weren’t ashamed to show-off their Olivia paper tiaras. Here’s Michael helping Mercedes adjust her crown.
First Book Canada
And how timely it was that one of our first stops was the registered book charity, First Book Canada.I had a conversation with Wayne Cochrane, Director of Operations, who told me about their great work in putting new books in the hands of children from low-income families. Today alone at The Word on the Street,First Book Canada was able to distribute 750,000 books alone! That’s exciting, especially if you’re a true advocate of literacy. I certainly am! For more information on how you can help foster literacy throughFirst Book Canada,be sure to visit their website.
Helaine Becker, author of The Haunted House That Jack Built
And while I chatted with Wayne, my husband took the children to meet the children’s author, Helaine Beckerwho graciously inscribed her book to Michael and Mercedes while Michael turned extremely shy at meeting his very first “author” in person that he could barely speak when she asked him his name!
At the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent, we took the time to listen to Dani Couture read a few passages from her novel, Algoma.
And since it was still early in the afternoon, we, like the book enthusiasts of Toronto and the GTA, excitedly walked the streets of the festival to find our next great book!
The Penguin Pavilion
Another great highlight at the festival was dropping by The Penguin Pavilionwhere I chatted with a WOTS volunteer about the work surrounding the planned event. She was helpful, and patient, and like much of the event itself, positive, and energetic! She was even kind enough to let me take a picture of her shirt! Thanks to all the volunteers who stood for hours, passing around pamphlets, maps, and answering excited festival-goers’ questions.
And because Penguin Books of Canada is an awesome publisher, they gave out AMAZING goodies to those who tweeted promos about Penguin at WOTS. And I tell you, I’m glad I stopped by. (OF COURSE, I’D STOP BY! I review books for Penguin Books of Canada!).
Thank you, Penguin Books! I absolutely LOVE my new Classics Penguin tote bag, my Classic Penguin mug (The Invisible Manby H.G. Wells), and my bookmarks, stickers, and posters!
Chef Mark McEwan
And then we dropped in on Chef Mark McEwan speak about his work as a Food Network TV host and his books, Great Food at Homeand Fabbrica.
With all this book love and excitement, even the best of us have to take a break. Here’s the gang taking a rest with Bear Paw snacks and juice boxes before our next tent hop.
And it appears, I’m not the only author groupie around! Here’s my daughter, Mercedes, checking the Author Signing Tour Schedule for details. And because she’s so smart and is a green activist like Mommy, she just happens to be pointing at David Suzuki’stime slot.
Here are other tents we visited:
I was happy to see Book Thugat WOTS. I happily subscribe to their email for updates on their latest news of excellent literary work.
House of Anansi
I was happy to see one of the other publishers I review for at WOTS: House of Anansi. And “A List” is right! P.S. I WANT THAT “A List” t-shirt!
The Remarkable Reads Tent (Random House of Canada)
I dropped by the very popular Remarkable Reads Tenthosted by my friends at Random House of Canada.I kept my eye out for one of my favourite marketing teams: Lindsey and Cass, but didn’t catch them as I was thoroughly distracted by the number of speakers, readings, and books were on hand at the festival! Missed you guys!
I did, however, catch some author sightings and while I couldn’t see everyone I had hoped to see, to see one author in person is more than a book lover and blogger, and author groupie like myself could ask for.
And if it wasn’t talented and famous authors to swoon at, it was every other kind of “bird.” Especially this one! She was promoting The Penelopiadby Margaret Atwood at the Nightwood Theatre. She was good enough to pose for me in all her feathered glory! (Do you see what we do for you, Margaret Atwood?)
I love theatre! I love drama! I even love Margaret Atwood! But, I absolutely love The Word on the Street!
And before I forget my YA followers and readers, can you guess who I saw at WOTS? Megan Crewe,author of the YA book, The Way We Fall,published by Hachette Book Group Canada.
And for even our younger readers, I wanted to share the buzz of the Kid Street Festival!Literacy can and should start at a young age. And to be able to see the joy of my own children reading makes me nostalgic of when I, too, fell in love with books for the very first time.
Though Michael and Mercedes were unable to snatch a Hobbit poster like most of the children, they were more than happy to shack up at the Children’s Activity Tent to join Debbie Ridpath Ohi and her interactive storytelling of her book, I’m Bored.
Kids Activity Tent
Here he is with his sister in the Kids’ Activity Tent giving me his best I’m Bored face, a new children’s book.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
And here’s the illustrator of the book, I’m Bored, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, encouraging the children to interact as she tells the story.
Here are other fun spots we visited:
And here’s Michael wondering where all the books went? I told him, it’s great news when the shelves are empty. It means more people have bought and received more books!
Here the kids are posing with Arthur, one of their favourite book and television characters. They do own and have read all his books!
The Children’s Book Bank
But most importantly, I had a conversation with the host of The Children’s Book BankTent and was pleased to discover their charitable work in providing free books to children from low-income neighbourhoods. My son even joined in the conversation and gladly offered his own books saying,
“I’ve read a lot of books and I’m done with them.”
How can you help? You can bring your new or gently-used books for children up to grade six to the Children’s Book Bank! And they are always in need of dictionaries!
Check out their website for details on hours of operation and other ways you can help by donating money or your time. If you love reading as much as I do, give the gift of literacy to those that need it most: children.
Kids Street Festival
But, the fun didn’t end there! My children were eager to meet their “friends” at the Kids Street Festival:
Mercedes wasn’t shy! She went straight up to Chirp and gave him a great, big hug. And then she said,
“Chirp is wearing my red boots!”
She was in awe and so pleased that they were both wearing their red rainboots at WOTS.
And before we decided to go for a late lunch, Michael wanted to reaffirm that yes, he’s indeed a TVO Kid!
And if you’re as OLD as I am, you’ll get as excited as I was in meeting…yes, that’s right…POLKAROO!!
A special thank you to TVO Kids for bringing these characters to life for my children. It was surely a highlight of the day for them. (I was EXCITED to see my old friend, Polkaroo, too!)
Here’s the Polkaroo Gangat McDonalds for a late lunch. POLKAROOOOOOO!
After lunch, the kids sat down for the TVO Kids show: Beatboxing! They had a really good time and even Daddy was impressed with the youth on the stage. Thanks TVO Kids!
But it wasn’t just an amazing time for the little ones, it was also a great day for me personally. I was able to catch a glimpse of Vincent Lam signing his new book, The Headmaster’s Wager.And I kept hitting myself, thinking,
“Why, oh, why, did I NOT bring MY copy to get signed?!?” Arghhh!
And a meaningful meet was when I accidentally ran into Susan Swan! I had planned on seeing her read at 3:15 p.m., but here she was, quietly signing her new book, The Western Light.
She was my Prose Fiction professor at York University while I studied Creative Writing and English Literature many, MANY years ago!
I was excited to see her again in this context and she humoured me with a lovely photograph opportunity and asked for my blog’s business card. Thanks Susan, for always being a true lover of the writing craft and for remembering me.
Thanks to Susan Swan for her patience and her gracious criticism of my work. She was extremely helpful, yet not unkind in showing me and others how to improve our writing. If you have a chance to purchase her new book, please do so! She’s a great writer and an excellent professor!
What a full day of author sightings, readings, interviews, SWAG, and book purchases. If you love reading and you love books, you’re not going to want to miss next year’s event. Look at all the fun stuff I was able to find on behalf of everyone’s promotion of literacy!
Time to go home…and well…READ! Happy Word on the Street Day! And hope to see you all next year!
Did you attend The Word on the Street 2012 Festival at Queen’s Park?
What did you enjoy the most about it?
Which authors would you like to see featured next year?
The Emperor of Paris: A Novelby C.S. Richardson is a delicately written story about the fated circumstances leading two unlikely people together: Octavio Notre-Dame,an illiterate Parisian baker and Isabeau Normande, a woman shamed by facial scars from a disfiguring accident as a child.
The book feels classically written with a formality that feels as genteel as Parisian culture and fable-like as the books collected by the passionate baker in the story, in particular the book, The Arabian Nights.
Much of the dialogue, too, is the heartwarming way in which father and son communicate through the sight of pictures and shared storytelling to compensate for their illiteracy.
They thread into part vocal testament to the brutality of war and poverty and the power of imagination and storytelling as a source of survival and joy. And perhaps a subliminal comment on the true meaning of literacy itself.
Octavio’s charm resides in his humility as a man, his genuine, innocent, yet grand storytelling, as well as his tender relationship with his father even after the effects of post-traumatic stress from war, and his thoughtful and quiet pursuit of the equally shy and isolated, Isabeau Normande.
Isabeau, herself, takes comfort and solace in the dark basements of the Louvre where she meticulously restores beauty to classical paintings as an answer to her personal passion for art itself and perhaps as a form of personal redemption in answer to her own facial disfigurement.
The book is an eloquent and delicately written novella about the art of storytelling filled with the sentimentality of Parisian community, passionate vocation, and the innocence of new, romantic love—especially for those who feel most unworthy of discovering it—yet, the ones who most likely deserved it the most.
Whether you’re a passionate artist or an intrigued voyeur of Parisian life, the kind tone of this novel will bring to light the importance of child-like play and imagination, fantasy, and fairytale in a hopeful optimism against the devastation of disappointment, personal trauma, and often times, the reality of life.
A special thank you to Doubleday Canada and Random House of Canada for providing me with a media copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid and honest review.
Have you ever been to Paris, France?
Have you ever visited the Louvre?
What fascinates you most about the Parisian culture?
Do you remember the first time you learned how to read?
I do. I was six-years-old.
And the hieroglyph of letters slowly came together in focus to give me the power of words—to understand them and read them off the page. The book was Poems and Rhymes,Volume 1 of the Childcraft Encyclopaedia.
Finally, what the world was saying in print on signs, in commercials, in the newspaper, in magazines, and books were translatable to me as a child. Language was no longer alien to me. I was no longer ignorant to the block letter, to its script.
The day I learned to read, I became free.
So, it is much more than stories and fiction. It’s understanding. It’s knowledge. It’s learning. And re-learning. Vocabulary grows.
Do you remember the first time you signed up for your first library card?
I do. I was eight-years-old.
My father stood with me in line at the Bramalea Public Libraryon the first floor (this library had two). I filled out an application by my own hand. I signed it. My father co-signed it as a witness. The librarian made a copy of my identification, which consisted of my birth certificate and my father’s driver’s license for my address. And she came back with a smile—and a newly laminated library card with my name on it!
I had the freedom then, too, to borrow books on my own. My family and I went to the library every two weeks on a Saturday until I started to go on my own once a week!
I’d browse the racks of beautifully bounded books. I’d claim a few for my tote bag. I’d sit in a chair or on the floor and open up a new world.
Or sometimes my visit to the library was on account of a school project I was working on. This was at a time before the Internet existed and card catalogues were still the search engines of the day. Librarians were a helpful resource who led me to research books and the magic of microfiche.
It was on account of libraries that I could complete school projects and earn top grades in my class, that my knowledge and vocabulary grew, and that my love of reading continues to endure.
Which motivated me to support and feature the philanthropic mission of a great little company called, GoneReading!