Transatlantic is celebrating I Read Canadian Day today, along with our Canadian children’s authors and illustrators! I Read Canadian Day, taking place for the first time ever today, empowers families, schools, libraries, bookstores, and organizations to host activities and events by reading Canadian books for just fifteen minutes.

“The purpose of this event,” says Rose Vespa, Executive Director of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, “is to raise awareness of Canadian books and to celebrate the excellence of Canadian literature.”

This initiative was created as a collaboration between the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC); children’s author Eric Walters; Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP); and the Ontario Library Association (OLA.).

“We want people to buy, borrow, read and talk about Canadian books – whether they are in English, French, or Indigenous languages, and can be in print, e-format and accessible formats,” says Sharon Jennings, president of CANSCAIP. “The target venues in the inaugural year are schools, public libraries, and bookstores. We hope parents, caretakers, educators, and others will join in!”

The Toronto Star spoke with Eric Walters about how he came to spearhead this new initiative:

“He was amazed, he said, at the sense of pessimism in the air about the Canadian books industry. Equally, he says, ‘I was amazed at how people didn’t know other parts of the (publishing) puzzle.’”

So he got on the phone and set up a meeting: Shelagh Paterson of the Ontario Library Association; Meredith Tutching from Forest of Reading; Rose Vespa of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre; and Sharon Jennings of the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers. They went out for lunch and ‘we talked about the lack of cooperation between organizations and that we needed something national to do something.’ ”

What they came up with was “I Read Canadian” — a day where students across the country are encouraged to read a Canadian book for 15 minutes. Included in the promotional materials are books that Walters says are not from “the usual suspects” but rather newer writers, “people who need to be pulled forward.”

Walters’ idea has taken hold. In this first iteration, I Read Canadian has 1,500 schools across the country signed up to participate or hold an event on Wed. Feb. 19.”

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