Guest post by Kristen Oelschlagel When I was younger, every night (until I got “too cool”) my mom would read me a bedtime story, and if I was really persuasive, I might even get two. Classic storybook heroes like Franklin, The Berenstain Bears and Arthur were always favourites. The reading tradition continued with my younger brothers, and it’s one that the Canadian Children’s Book Centre is hoping to instill in all families. May 3-10 is TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, a celebration of literacy and reading for the younger set. Schools, libraries and community centres across the country, with the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, will host almost 30 Canadian authors, illustrators and storytellers. “Reading and literacy are life skills,” says Sandra O’Brien, interim program coordinator for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. “The younger we start reading with or to children, the more success they have in school and life in general. And these days, with the influence of so much technology, it’s important to encourage children to read for pleasure.” The event has come a long way since its inception in 1977, when just 11 authors participated in the first Canadian Children’s Book Week. At that time it was called the Children’s Book Tour, and O’Brien says the event has grown a lot since then. Last year, Book Week reached over 25,000 children across Canada. This year’s theme is Read to Remember, acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. “In Canada, we have kids who come from war zones and kids whose parents have served in the Armed Forces,” says O’Brien. “It’s important to remember that war is still with us today, and to honour those involved in the wars of the past.” She says some of the Book Week authors have even written about war. One of those authors is Sharon McKay, a Canadian war artist who has spent time on military bases in Afghanistan. McKay believes this year’s theme is an opportunity to teach kids about their history, but also to educate new Canadians as well. “When you talk to kids about their history, it gives them roots,” she says. “But it also gives new Canadians an opportunity to understand their country, and I really encourage that.” McKay’s third Book Week tour, she’ll spend this one in Newfoundland. For her, Book Week is about the interaction between children and the creators of the books children read. “I often go to remote areas. This trip I’m in St. John’s and Corner Brook for a short time, but then I go right out to the coast. It’s a chance for children to be exposed to writers they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.” Author Claire Eamer, who will be touring Nunavut, says Book Week is a great opportunity for small towns to get the same perks that big cities take for granted. “Remote communities take advantage of Book Week to get visits from authors,” she says. “It’s the sort of thing they can’t normally afford on their own—they don’t have the population base.” She adds that Book Week is wonderful excuse to get kids reading more—a crucial skill in life. Does all this talk about books make you want to go read with your little one? Here are some well-known Canadian children’s titles to get you started:
- Stanley’s Party by Linda Bailey Recommended by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for ages four to six, Stanley is a fun-loving dog who just can’t wait to throw a party when his owners are out of the house.
- The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier Recommended for ages five to eight, it’s a story about group of young Montreal Canadiens fans and one who is horrified when he gets stuck wearing the rival Maple Leafs sweater.
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery A literary classic that recounts the tales of young orphan Anne Shirley—great for reading to younger children or for older ones to read on their own.