Rainforest of Reading Festival improves literacy in the Caribbean
Something amazing will be happening in the Caribbean this November, and it’s all thanks to a group of people who saw a literacy need in another part of the world, and took action to help.
Thanks to the One World Schoolhouse Foundation more than 8,000 schoolchildren in St. Lucia, Grenada and Montserrat will receive books for their classrooms and get to meet eight popular Canadian kidlit authors and illustrators.
The Rainforest of Reading Festival is one program the foundation puts on “to help kickstart the love of reading and nurture a generation of imaginative and creative thinkers in the Caribbean,” said executive director Sonya White.
“Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and volcanoes, as well as a lack of funds have contributed to a serious decline in the number of libraries in the Caribbean,” she said. The number of books available to children there, including in the classroom, is severely limited; often there is just one textbook for the whole class.
The Rainforest of Reading program was inspired by Canada’s Forest of Reading program, which gives elementary school kids in Canada a chance to read a selection of great books and then vote for their favourites.
Here’s what’s going to be happening in the Caribbean in November:
- Twelve books were nominated—including GABBY. Click here to see the list of all books that were nominated for Rainforest of Reading Award.
- 450 copies of each book were sent to the Caribbean—one set for each Grade 3 and Grade 4 classroom in St. Lucia, Grenada and Montserrat.
- Each class also receives a teacher’s kit, a “Bananagrams” game, book passports and posters.
The teacher’s kit walks the teacher through the program. You can download the Rainforest of Reading Teacher’s Kit here.
- Teachers put up posters, which feature the book covers, in their classroom. The posters also have room for each child to check off the books as they read them.
- The children also answer questions about each book.
- Each child gets a “passport.” After they’ve read a book, they get a sticker for their passport until they’ve read all 12.
- The teachers fill out a survey before and after the program, so they can measure how far their kids have come.
DURING THE FESTIVAL
- Eight Canadian authors and illustrators are flying to the Caribbean to participate in the festival. (They’re each travelling on their own dime; the foundation will pay for their room and board.)
- The children vote for their favourite books in two categories: fiction and non-fiction. The teachers submit their votes via the website (by Nov. 19). There are separate winners for St. Lucia and Grenada.
- On Festival Day—it’s a different date depending on what city you live in—classes travel by bus or car (sometimes a long way) to the festival site. The dates are: Montserrat, Nov. 18; Grenada Nov. 25, St. Lucia Nov. 27 and 28.
- A parade will start the festival. Just like the Olympics, the book titles are paraded in. Schools have chosen a book to champion, and the kids from that school will dress up or create floats to represent their book in the “Parade of Readers.”
- The Canadian authors and illustrators who have travelled from Canada will each have a tent, where they’ll sign books and passports, talk to the kids and run activity centres.
- The kids will file into the festival area and meet the authors and illustrators. They’ll also do crafts and activities.
Here’s a terrific video of us packing up the books and teaching supplies that were sent to the Caribbean in August 2014.
One World Schoolhouse also gathers books given to them by Canadian schools and ships them—about nine tonnes of fiction and non-fiction books as well as underutilized school textbooks—to the Caribbean.
In the future, they plan to expand their program to include computers for use in schools in the Caribbean.
Join us for the launch of Gabby!
Bring your kids – there will be a book reading, colouring and plasticine. Make your own “Gabby” so we can include it in our Kids’ Gallery.
Illustrator Jan Dolby and I will be available to talk to you about the book and personally sign your copy of Gabby.
The party is on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 1:00, at the Intergalactic Travel Authority Cafe (and Story Planet), 1165 Bloor St. W., in Toronto. One block west of Dufferin, on the south side of the street. (Beside Bloor Collegiate.) Hope to see you there!
Map to the ITA cafe.
Just got back from the publisher’s, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, to pick up the first copies of “Gabby.” Very exciting!
Illustrator Jan Dolby and I could not stop grinning. Heck, we’re still grinning. The book looks beautiful and we want to thank all of the wonderful, talented people at Fitz & Whits.
Our publicist, Cheryl, said the official launch date – and the date when it will be in stores – is Jan. 15.
Here is Gabby’s other option for Hallowe’en — she’s dressed as her friend, Little Frog. (It’s from the book, which you’ll see in January.) There’s a little picture of Little Frog on every page doing something special. That Jan Dolby – so fun!
Super-illustrator Jan Dolby drew this image of Gabby in one of her two Hallowe’en costumes (she hasn’t decided which one she’s wearing yet). Stay tuned for the other one, which we’ll reveal later.
Thanks to my high school friends, my neighbours, my family, writer’s group buddies, publisher and everyone else who came.
Just knowing you were there (either in person or in spirit) helped me get over my first-reading jitters.
Now… see you all next year?!