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
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.
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:
- Don’t Laugh at Giraffe by Rebecca Bender (Pajama Press)
- Willow Finds a Way by Lana Button, Illustrated by Tania Howells ( Kids Can Press)
- Skink on the Brink by Lisa Dalrymple, Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo (Fitzhenry & Whiteside.)
- Postcards from Space: The Chris Hadfield Story by Heather Down (Echo Books/Wintertickle Press)
- Gabby by Joyce Grant, Illustrated by Jan Dolby (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
- And the Winner is…Amazing Animal Athletes by Etta Kaner, Illustrated by David Anderson (Kids Can Press)
- Pterosaur Trouble by Daniel Loxton, illustrated with Jim W. W. Smith (Kids Can Press)
- Mr. Flux by Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Matte Stephens (Kids Can Press)
- Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior, Illustrated by Laura James (Tradewind Books.)
- Kenta and the Big Wave by Ruth Ohi (Annick Press)
- My Name is Blessing by Eric Walters, Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (Tundra Books)
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Their website: http://oneworldschoolhouse.org
Their address: 40 Woodland Court Caledon, ON L7K 0C2