(photo by Gary Beechey)
One of the most rewarding tasks I've performed in my new position with the Ontario Arts Council has been to lead the jury discussions and voting for the Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards.
About 6 weeks ago, the students of Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto were provided with books from the two shortlists for this award. The shortlists were chosen by the Canadian Booksellers Association in two categories -- Children's Picture Book and Young Adult/ Middle Reader. Two juries of students were chosen by Market Lane's teachers, and were tasked with reading five books each. I then met with each jury, and went through a formal discussion and voting process to complete the award selection.
Literary discussion is already the best part of my job, but book chat with Grade 3/4 and Grade 7/8 students does more than just improve my mood -- it gives me hope for the future. How books are read, and the complex economics of their publication may be in flux these days, but the passion for reading is alive and well in Ontario's youth.
Last week, the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz winners were announced during an assembly at Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School.
Mélanie Watt won in the Picture Book category for Chester's Back! (Kids Can Press), and Alma Fullerton won in the Young Adult/ Middle Reader for Libertad (Fitzhenry and Whiteside). Ms. Fullerton was on hand at the ceremony to accept her award, while Mélanie Watt sent a video message to the schoolkids. Local poet guy, Robert Priest set the mood with a ten minute set of his work for young poetry fans.
BTW -- the photo above is of me explaining the jury process to a fascinated crowd of schoolkids. I'm just waiting on some photo permissions, and then I will load more interesting shots, with actual books and kids involved.
The Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards are funded by the Ruth Schwartz Foundation.
The administration of these awards is shared by the Ontario Arts Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council which manages the jury process, and the Canadian Booksellers Association whose members choose the short list of books.
The Ontario Arts Council supports numerous Canadian book publishers through its Block Grants to Book Publishers program, including Kids Can Press and Fitzhenry & Whiteside.