In the Fall of 2011 I was introduced by my local librarian to the Forest of Reading. This is a recreational reading program created by the Ontario Library Association for different age levels. Kids throughout Ontario read at least 5 out of 10 nominated Canadian books in a given category. Then the kids (and only the kids) vote for the best book. The program culminates in a celebration called the Festival of Trees where the authors are available to interact with the kids and the winning author is presented with their award.
Our school librarian has been wanting to introduce the program for a while, but with all her library classes, other classes and day-to-day operations there has never been enough time. (I discovered this is the case all too often in our schools). Not knowing how much time it might take but knowing that I had a fair amount of time available to volunteer, I decided to take on the task myself. Given that my daughters are in Grades 4 and 6, I ran the Silver Birch programs designed for Grades 3-6. The school also has a French immersion stream, so I included the French Le Prix Tamarac program (although I didn’t do much more than order the books and nod and smile with fake understanding when a student told me about a book after they read it).
So how much time did it end up consuming? I won’t lie; I spent a lot of time this first year figuring everything out and creating all the various forms, making announcements in twelve different classrooms, and reading all the books. The Silver Birch Program alone has 3 different categories – Silver Birch Fiction, Silver Birch Express Fiction, and Silver Birch Non-Fiction. This meant I read 30 books in the months of November and December before the program started in January 2012. But I also won’t lie about how much fun it has been – the books were amazing, the kids inspirational, and the outcome incredible. Out of 300 possible students, I had 120 kids sign up for the program, and 550 books were read over a four-month period! And having boys and girls so excited about finishing a book or creating a scene from a book was heartwarming. I now understand the idea that when you love what you do, you love to do it.