Every year, schools across Ontario run Forest of Reading programs, promoted by the Ontario Library Association. Students read Canadian literature during the same time frame, and this builds excitement as students decide on their favourite books and authors to vote for in April.
The main goals of these programs are to engage students in reading, collaboration and critical thinking through literature. The programs also provide opportunities for our learners to develop a recognition of Canadian authors. These programs are run in individual schools, and therefore may look different depending on the school.
The Forest of Reading initiative includes programs that work for both school-age children and adult readers. After students read the books assigned for their specific program, they get to vote for their favourite! Once all of the votes from students across Ontario are tallied up, there is a grand celebration that honours the winners of the Forest of Reading.
For our youngest school-age children there is the Blue Spruce program with picture books to read and study. This is a great opportunity to engage our young primary students in evaluating pictures and text.
The Silver Birch program runs for our junior students, or readers age 8 to 12 (Grades 3 to 6). There are usually 10 fiction books and 10 additional nonfiction books that students read, study and evaluate. But for those readers who are beyond picture books, but not quite ready for the more mature content of the junior level Silver Birch books, there is the Silver Birch Express program. This initiative is meant for students in Grades 3 to 4, with excellent material geared specially for that age level.
The Red Maple program runs for the Grade 7 to 8 students. Again, there is a separate fiction list and non-fiction list for students to read. Students can engage in an array of literacy-based activities and meaningful discussion about the books that leads to critical thinking.
Students in Grades 9 to 12 have the White Pine program with a fiction and nonfiction list of books written by Canadian authors. It is a great initiative that helps our young teenagers to learn about, develop and a passion for, Canadian literature.
The Forest of Reading programs do not end there, but those are the ones for school-age children.
These programs provide wonderful opportunities for students to improve their literacy by connecting with something that many other students in our board, and all of Ontario, are also connecting with and learning.
This year I hope to engage in the use of social media, specifically Twitter and Edmodo, to engage our intermediate students to students across the country all taking part in the Red Maple program.
Please stay tuned for more details!