Heading with Gabby back to the Rainforest

Winston Stilwell is the incredible publicist at Fitzhenry & Whiteside. He put together this great box of Gabby goodies. The kids will love them!

Winston Stilwell is the incredible publicist at Fitzhenry & Whiteside. He put together this great box of Gabby goodies. The kids will love them! Photo: Cheryl Chen.

One of the best things about reading is getting to share the joy with kids who don’t have many resources.

That’s the case in Montserrat, where storybooks are scarce and a class visit from an author–well, that doesn’t happen much, to say the least.

Illustrator Jan Dolby and I are flying to Montserrat next week, thanks to One World Schoolhouse Foundation’s Rainforest of Reading program. We can’t wait to meet all of the lovely children. We’re bringing Gabby bookmarks, teacher’s guides–and copies of the second Gabby book, Gabby: Drama Queen.

To find out more about the OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation or to volunteer or donate, visit http://www.oneworldschoolhouse.org/.

This blog post explains more about the Rainforest festival we participated in last year. So incredible!

One World Schoolhouse Foundation on CTV News

Richard Clewes ran around St. Lucia (two marathons in two days!) to raise money for his One World Schoolhouse Foundation.

Richard Clewes ran around St. Lucia (two marathons in two days!) to raise money for his One World Schoolhouse Foundation.

There was a terrific news piece on CTV News recently about One World Schoolhouse, the foundation that brought Gabby and 11 other great kids’ picture books to St. Lucia and Grenada last year.


CTV News: One World Schoolhouse Foundation

Please take a moment to check out the tremendous work by Richard, Sonya, Marlaina and the many volunteers who built and maintain this important foundation.

Gabby’s off to the Caribbean!

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.

GABBY final with school uniform

To help make Gabby feel more at home in the Caribbean, illustrator Jan Dolby gave her a smart new school uniform modelled after the ones worn by girls in St. Lucia and Grenada.

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.

Gabby_Teachers_Guide-FINAL-CARIBBEAN-EDITION--cover-for-webDownload a free copy of the Gabby: Teacher’s Guide (Caribbean edition) here:

Gabby_Teachers_Guide Caribbean edition

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 Rainforest of reading logothe 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 tBananagramso 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.
Many of the authors and illustrators--as well as other volunteers--helped pack the boxes with the books and materials that were then shipped off to the Caribbean.

Many of the authors and illustrators–as well as other volunteers–helped pack the boxes with the books and materials that were then shipped off to the Caribbean.

  • 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 sRainforest passportsticker 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.


  • 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.Rainforest Teacher's Kit
  • 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.

Rainforest of Reading boat

The books arrived by boat in the Caribbean on Sept. 10, 2014.

Other projects
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.

Gabby a Rainforest of Reading nominee

Rainforest of reading logo




We had some exciting news recently.

Gabby has been selected as a nominee for the Rainforest of Reading award, 2014.

Created and supported by the OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation, it’s similar to Canada’s Forest of Reading festival, except it’s in St. Lucia, Granada and Montserrat.

The foundation brings much-needed literature to the region. As well, it holds a huge book festival for the area’s grade three students. The students each get a passport which they have signed every time they read one of the books.

They also get to visit some of the authors, who make the trek to St. Lucia for the festival in November.

And this year, I’m going — along with Gabby illustrator Jan Dolby. We’re so excited!

Not only is the nomination exciting, but as a long-time literacy advocate I’m really focussing on the opportunity to bring books and reading to the lovely grade 3 students in St. Lucia, Granada and Montserrat.

We’re in good company. Here are all of the books nominated for the award:
• “Don’t Laugh at Giraffe” written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender. Pajama Press.
• “Willow Finds a Way” written by Lana Button. Illustrated by Tania Howells.
Kids Can Press.
• “Skink on the Brink” written by Lisa Dalrymple. Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
• “Postcards from Space: The Chris Hadfield Story” written by Heather Down. Echo Books/Wintertickle Press.
• “Gabby” written by Joyce Grant. Illustrated by Jan Dolby. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
• “And the Winner is…Amazing Animal Athletes” written by Etta Kaner. Illustrated by
David Anderson. Kids Can Press.
• “Pterosaur Trouble” written by Daniel Loxton. Illustrated by Daniel Loxton with Jim
W. W. Smith. Kids Can Press.
• “Mr. Flux” written by Kyo Maclear. Illustrated by Matte Stephens. Kids Can Press.
• “Anna Carries Water” by Olive Senior. Illustrated by Laura James. Tradewind Books.
• “Kenta and the Big Wave” written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi. Annick Press.
• “My Name is Blessing” written by Eric Walters. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes.
Tundra Books.

I’ll be posting more information about the award and the festival. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Rainforest of Reading website (it will be updated with the new nominee list on July 31).