What else can you add to Canada’s largest literary event to make it even more exciting for young readers? Hula hoops.
Kiki Totally Outrageous, one of the street performers in North Fire Circus, wowed thousands of young people by performing outlandish feats with her hula hoop at the 2019 Festival of Trees from May 14-16. She appeared on the main stage seven times throughout the three-day festival and she held workshops at her tent on the festival grounds at 234 Queen Quay, Toronto Harbourfront Centre in between shows.
Kiki Totally Outrageous acts very much like a comic book character come to life. She’s a bedazzling busker bent on colouring the entire book-signing spectacle with her charisma. Just when the young minds were turning to mush from all the literature they were learning, Kiki appeared to recharge the huddled masses with her hula-hooping prowess. The thirty-something thespian thrilled festival goers with her fitness and technique. The more active engagers at the main stage shows were treated to enjoy her free training workshops close-at-hand. Participants of every age were invited back to her tent on the fairgrounds to learn trips and tricks themselves that they could perform for their families at home. Watching her work was a wonderful way to see the festival through the eyes of young people who move from moment to moment looking for Instagram-worthy attractions.
Billed as a rock concert for reading, The Festival of Trees is Canada’s largest literary event for young readers. This year, more than 12,000 book lovers attended the festival, which is co-presented by Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) at the Harbourfront Centre. It is worth noting that ninety percent of the attendees are under the age of 15!
The Festival of Trees starts with the Forest of Reading which is Canada’s largest recreational reading program! This initiative of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) offers seven reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages. The Forest helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors and illustrators. More than 270,000 young readers participate annually from their school or public library (or both). All Canadians are invited to participate.
Here are the 2019 OLA Best Bets; these books are proven to get kids reading.
The whole program is the envy of education ministers around the world. Canada has combined the efforts of the publishing industry, public schools and authors to make it all work together and increase literacy, while at the same time promoting our best authors and illustrators and celebrating our culture. The books are released throughout each school year and annual schedule culminates in this three-day awards celebration for the school-aged and French-language programs of the Forest of Reading in Toronto, with other satellite Festivals taking place across Ontario.
Winning authors and illustrators of the Forest of Reading programs from previous years were on-hand to take the stage and present this year’s awards for Blue Spruce, Silver Birch, Red Maple, White Pine, Peuplier, Tamarac, and Tamarac Express programs. In the photo below you can see the winner of the Silver Birch Express Award, a lovely book called Meet Viola Desmond, Elizabeth MacLeod is on stage thanking her illustrator Mike Deas.
The Festival of Trees in Toronto has more to offer than just award ceremonies and workshops, interviews with authors and illustrators and exciting activities and games. It also had Kiki Totally Outrageous, whose unforgettable solo performances evidenced her charm, energy and quirky humour as a performer.
When Kiki needed a volunteer, she selected a teacher from a local school. When she brought the man on stage, his students filled the audience that surrounded the band shell with their phones out and their cameras on. Sensing his popularity, Kiki gave him a crazy blond wig and yellow headband and soon had everyone laughing, clapping and cheering him on to finish the stunt. That teacher will never be so beloved as he was in that moment.
The Forest of reading is meant to instill a love of reading and education in public school age kids, and the Festival of Trees hopes to create meaningful experiences outside of the books. Kiki Totally Outrageous certainly helped fulfill the mandate. These young readers will never forget her, and hopefully it will add to their appreciation of the library and literacy in general. Fostering the love of reading supercharges learning as statistics prove that children who read for fun have higher literacy scores and go farther in school and are generally more socially and civically engaged.