Packaging Inspiration, Literacy and a Little Magic for Rainforest of Reading

It was my first packing party, so I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the warehouse in Bolton early Friday morning. I’d been invited to help pack books and supplies headed for Saint Lucia and Grenada as part of the Rainforest of Reading Festival.  http://rainforestofreading.org                 logo_ror

The Rainforest of Reading is an annual children’s book festival run by OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation http://oneworldschoolhouse.org. This amazing program, which is the largest literacy initiative for this underprivileged and developing region, invites 8,500 students in grades 3 and 4 to read 12 Canadian books and attend a national celebration.

The goal of the program is to transform lives through literacy. OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation believes that literacy is deeply connected to individual success, empowerment, and prosperity, and that reading can activate social change. Their simple but profound mission statement is: “Books can take you places you’ve never been before. Imagine That!”

During the Rainforest of Reading Festival these Eastern Caribbean children are encouraged to envision a world of possibilities beyond their classroom. With their very own Rainforest “passport” students take a literary journey through the Rainforest of Reading, earning stickers for each book read. And on the last day of the festival, the children enjoy a national celebration that includes a parade, literacy based games, activities, songs, Bananagrams, and even opportunities to meet and chat with some of the authors and illustrators.

I’m so sad that I won’t be there, but am incredibly proud and honored that Willow will. Willow Finds a Way is one of the 12 books chosen by the festival organizers to be boxed up and sent so far away in an effort to inspire and educate young children.               books

I cannot thank OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation enough for this opportunity. As I wrote this story, about a little girl’s challenge to find a way to speak out against unfair treatment of her friends, it was my hope that it might both entertain and inspire young children. I love nothing more than to read this story out loud to children, but the true magic of picture books is that Willow’s story can travel to places beyond my reach, and can hopefully provide inspiration to children I will never meet. The OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation is made up of incredibly hard working dedicated volunteers who believe in the power of picture books. I was so inspired by their dedication as we spent the day packing up these very special boxes. And although I can’t be there to meet the children taking part in the festival, I’m so very proud that, thanks to The Rainforest of Reading, Willow Finds a Way gets to be!

 

The 12 lucky books taking part in the 2014 Rainforest of Reading Festival are:

  • Unknown-1Don’t Laugh at Giraffe by Rebecca Bender (Pajama Press)
  • Unknown-2Willow Finds a Way by Lana Button, Illustrated by Tania Howells (
Kids Can Press)
  • Unknown-3Skink on the Brink by Lisa Dalrymple, Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo (Fitzhenry & Whiteside.)
  • Unknown-4Postcards from Space: The Chris Hadfield Story by Heather Down (Echo Books/Wintertickle Press)  
  • 1554552508Gabby by Joyce Grant, Illustrated by Jan Dolby (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
  • Unknown-5And the Winner is…Amazing Animal Athletes by Etta Kaner, Illustrated by 
David Anderson (Kids Can Press)
  • Unknown-6Pterosaur Trouble by Daniel Loxton, illustrated with Jim
W. W. Smith (Kids Can Press)
  • Unknown-7Mr. Flux by Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Matte Stephens (Kids Can Press)
  • Unknown-8Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior, Illustrated by Laura James (Tradewind Books.)
  • Unknown-9Kenta and the Big Wave by Ruth Ohi (Annick Press)
  • Unknown-10My Name is Blessing by Eric Walters, Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (Tundra Books)
  • cover_lrg Would Someone Please Answer the Parrot? by Beryl Young, Illustrated by Jason Doll (Peanut Butter Press)

 

You can donate to The Rainforest of Reading at canadahelps.org

One World Schoolhouse Foundation
 can be contacted at: (519) 316-0059


Their email: sonyawhite@oneworldschoolhouse.org

Their website: http://oneworldschoolhouse.org

Their address: 40 Woodland Court Caledon, ON L7K 0C2

Picture Books that Can Start a Conversation about Depression

Like the rest of the world, I am so saddened by the death of Robin Williams. He brought us so much joy and laughter. It’s heartbreaking to think of the suffering he endured through his battle with depression.
What more can be done to help people overcome this silent torture? For those of us who suffer, please try, a little harder, to talk about it. Your loved ones want so badly to help you. We just can’t see the inner torture that you are sometimes so good at hiding.
And for the rest of us, we need to listen- harder. We need to empathize. We need to rid the world of the negative stigma attached to mental health issues.
Let’s raise a generation who doesn’t judge and ridicule those who suffer, but strives to lend support and understanding. Here is a collection of picture books that can open the doors of communication with young ones dealing with depressed feelings, or living with someone who is feeling depressed.

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear (Kids Can Press, 2012 )     Unknown copy
is an incredible story about Vanessa and her sister, Virginia, who is in a ‘wolfish mood’. The story, loosely based on the relationship between author Virginia Woolf and her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, not only illustrates the strong hold that depression can take on an individual, it also describes the desperation others feel in an effort to ‘cheer their loved one up.’ Vanessa says, “the whole house sank. Up became down. Bright became dim.” The words and the illustrations provide literal and metaphorical glimpses into the effects that real depression can have on an individual and on those who love her.
Kirkus said in its review that the story “works beautifully as a bad-day/bad-mood or animal-transformation tale, while readers who know actual depression will find it handled with tenderly forceful aplomb.”

Frog is Sad by Max Velthuijs (Random house UK, 2014)       076457499X.01._AA100_PU_PU-5_

Frog wakes up one morning feeling sad, but he’s not sure why. His friends try a variety of things to cheer him up, and eventually his sadness is gone. This story acknowledges that when a person is depressed there often isn’t a ‘reason’ for them being sad. They just are.

When Sophie Gets Angry by Molly Bang (Scholastic, 1999)              Unknown-1
In this story Sophie isn’t sad, she’s really, really angry. The words and the illustrations do a terrific job in getting these powerful emotions across to young children. What I love about this story is that it doesn’t apologize for raw emotions. And eventually Sophie is able to get ahold of those emotions. She’s given time and space to work through the emotions. And her family is there with love and support when she is able to return to them.

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard (Scholastic, 2007)                 Unknown-3
Bird wakes up grumpy. Too grumpy to eat, play—or even fly. “Looks like I’m walking today,” says Bird grumpily.”
His friends join him in his walk. And somewhere along the way Bird realizes that his friends have stuck with him and his grumpy mood is gone. I love that the friends in the story don’t try to ‘fix the problem’ with a variety of suggestions or reasons for Bird not to be grumpy. They just walk with him, supporting him until the mood lifts.

It’s not our job to make children sad. It’s not our job to overwhelm them with scary information on a disease they can’t fix. But it is our job to teach our children that our emotions can be very powerful. And we deal with those emotions by both seeking and giving understanding and support. And I believe a great picture book can help start that conversation.