When one thinks of a forest we might think of a picturesque environment. One with large trees, the crisp smell of leaves with nature all around. One doesn’t really think about a forest full of books, unless you have visited a school library during the fall and winter months.
The Forest of Reading, organized by The Ontario Library Association is an amazing annual reading program for students across Ontario. The goal of the program is to encourage literacy and the love of reading among K to 12 students with a focus on brilliantly crafted Canadian material. The program has existed for over 20 years. A little known fact about The Forest of Reading is that it’s origins stem from the Durham District School Board.
School libraries across the DDSB participate in many of the forest programs. The program uses that forest analogy because each category of books is a type of tree. Blue Spruce Reading Program is for our youngest students and connects kindergarten to grade three students with awesome pictures books often with very important messages. Silver Birch is for students in the junior grades. This reading program is very popular in the DDSB and links students to rich fiction and non-fiction materials. Intermediate students are encouraged to read materials in the Red Maple program. This program offers students thought provoking fiction materials by some of Canada’s best young adult authors. This program has allowed many authors careers to flourish. Our secondary school students have the opportunity to read in the White Pine Program. This list of books links our secondary students with rich, creative and thought-provoking texts. Our French language schools are included and have a set of fantastic French materials in the Le Prix Tamarac and Le Prix Peuplier.
There are numerous benefits of students participating in the program. Literacy is essential. The program allows students to select materials they like to read and this will encourage further reading success. Students are encouraged to visit their school or public library and grab a forest book. Student voice is an essential aspect of the program. Students know what students like to read. At the end of each program year, students vote for their favorite book in each tree category. This voting process allows for our students’ voice to be honored and celebrated!
The ultimate goal is for our students to have access to well-written, Canadian books that they choose to read while encouraging a love of reading!
Innovation and the Forest of Reading go hand in hand. As the program grows in our schools, staff members have used technology to expand the program. From Forest Fridays where authors visit our schools using Skype or Google Hangouts to book scavenger hunts using Chromebooks built in cameras to explore features of texts to online voting using forms the forest is not infusing educational technology into the literacy mix.
If you haven’t visited your school library lately, we encourage you to do so. Why not try a Forest of Reading book yourself? After reading, you might want to use one in your current teaching practice. Your teacher librarian would love to help!
For further information about the Forest of Reading and to see the program in actions, follow the forest of twitter @ForestofReading