The first half of May was dominated, for me, with events surrounding the Silver Birch Awards, an Ontario children's choice reading program for kids in grades 3-6. It's part of the umbrella program, the Forest of Reading Awards, run by the Ontario Library Association.
The combined Forest of Reading programs reach readers from Kindergarten through adult, with selections chosen for reading level, quality, age appropriateness and variety. (Click here for deets of how it works) Only books pubbed in Canada qualify for inclusion in the program, but this is not a limitation; every year, the offerings are uniformly stellar, and are a powerful showcase for the talent that exists here in the Great North.
Another great result was that my bank account began filling up with royalties, because a nomination for this prestigious award boosts sales *significantly.* In other words, authors whose books get the first nod for the shortlist get to eat for a year.
The best part, though, came in the spring when I got to go to kazillions of schools and meet with kazillions of my readers. As has happened in the past, I was shocked by how influential a "real author" can be on young people. They listen to my trite words (reading is the true superpower! believe in yourself and you can do anything! If my dreams can come true, so can yours!) as if they come directly from the mouth of the Almighty. I'm a Role Model! A Star! A Good Influence! Who would have thunk it? (Mom - check it out!)
The highlights of the program are the various award ceremonies that take place during Children's Book Week in May. The "official" award ceremony, held annually at Harbourfront in Toronto, attracts 1500 kids to each of the Forest of Reading presentations. They scream, they wave banners, they have a blast. They learn that loving books is cool, is fun, is natural, because look how many of their peers do it too! Thousands!!!
Left: At the 2006 Harbourfront Award ceremony, where Boredom Blasters, won in the non-fiction category.
Participating in the program really is rewarding, because who wouldn't find an all-day party that gets you out of the classroom a terrific reward? The only downside to the Harbourfront event is it no longer has the capacity for all of the would-be attendees.
To make up for the space shortage, school boards across the province have organized their ow awards day events, for kids in their districts who can't get to Harbourfront. This year, I attended spin-off award ceremonies in the Niagara region, Aurora region, Uxbridge region and Peel region. I had to pass on Durham region's great event because of a time conflict, but have attended that one in the past.
and presented two hands-on writing workshops. Over 700 kids
enjoyed the event.
All the satellite events are just as good, if not better, than the bigmama event downtown. Each hosts several hundred - or several thousand - attendees! There's great entertainment, food, and most importantly, authors galore to sign books, present, and answer questions. In Uxbridge, kids dressed up as characters or symbols from a variety of my books and presented a little skit about me.
Left:At the Uxbridge event, kids presented a skit about yours truly! Here I am with my actors. Notice the butterfly who portrayed The Insectofiles, the scientist who represented Science on the Loose, and the spy who depicted Secret Agent Y.O.U., which won the award in 2008.
I've got to say that my favorite event of them all, though, is the one put on by the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga. They fill a STADIUM with 3-5000 kids and put on a show like you wouldn't believe!!!