In February 2022, ByBlacks brought you a story about Danielle Norris, founder of the Love of Literature Book Club and Foundation. Today, we interview three more Black Canadian literary leaders who are finding different ways to engage our community, old and young alike, to get excited about reading books.
The Reading Partnership
- Founder and Executive Director: Camesha Cox
- Location: East Scarborough. Online programming reaches Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and beyond
- Background: Jamaican Canadian
- Year of operation: 2012
Tell me about the Reading Partnership's literary successes
In 2012, we started with a small program serving 12 families. Since then, we’ve seen over 500 families go through the Reading Partnership for Parents program and have celebrated each one.
How does the Reading Partnership encourage literacy in Black children/communities?
Black children and families are at the centre and heart of our work. They are prioritized in our work and decision-making. We serve them first to ensure they are getting access to universally designed, high-quality programs and services that promote and improve literacy. Representation matters from the programs we develop to the learning tools and materials we create so that Black children and families can see themselves reflected in it.
While prioritizing Black families, our programs remain inclusive and open to all except for the Reading Partnership for Black Parents program (RPBP), which launched in 2018 with the support of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. RPBP is a specialized edition of our Reading Partnership for Parents program that includes Black-only participation, all-Black facilitators, and Black-centric learning tools and materials.
We believe in the power, resilience, and strength of Black families in offering them access, showcasing full representation, and celebrating vibrant diversity. We’ve published the work of 100+ young authors through our 360° Stories program and launched eight original anthologies featuring their writing and artwork.
Approximately 500 kids across the GTA register to read with us each year through our KidsRead TO virtual book clubs. We have proudly touched the lives of 10,000+ families over the past 10 years.
We've grown exponentially over the years, especially in the last 18 months. We started with a small budget of $12,000 from United Way in 2012 and have since gained the support of other reputable funders and partners like the Pinball Clemons Foundation and TD Bank Group.
As a 2021 TD Ready Challenge recipient, we're improving and expanding our program offerings nationally, and that’s a big deal, given our humble beginnings. We're proud of our impact and look forward to doing more for even more children and families.
What's next for the Reading Partnership?
Thanks to the financial support of TD Bank Group through the TD Ready Challenge, we are currently working on scaling our Reading Partnership for Parents Program across the country. We are proud to say that a program incubated in KGO for the past 10 years, developed in partnership with local educators and volunteers, and shaped and improved by the consistent feedback of program participants, will be scaled across Canada as an innovative solution for early literacy development.
We’re also working on expanding our signature resources. Our series of Tiny Tales early reader books is growing, and we’re working on making our Lit Kits (resource kits used in our RPP programs) more accessible to families across the city and country. We hope that kids and families can access these culturally relevant resources that meet a need and fill a gap.
Where can we find out more?
BLK Book Fair
- Founder: Pearl-Catherine Tita
- Background: African Canadian of Guyanese and Cameroonian descent
- Location: GTA, based in Vaughan, Ontario
- Year of operation: February 2021
Tell me about the BLK Book Fair’s literary successes
To date, we have over 50 members ranging from child authors and poets to creators of literature-based materials and more! We held our first authors' meet and greet at Chapters/Indigo. We have also been featured in The Caribbean Camera and the Toronto Caribbean newspapers.
How does the BLK Book Fair encourage literacy in Black children/communities?
We hosted A Step In The Write Direction, a children's literary workshop, in March of 2022, where a number of our authors facilitated children ages 8-12 in the beginning stages of their potential literary journeys. We have also donated books to “The Love of Literature Book Club.”
What's next for the BLK Book Fair?
Our second annual book fair event BLK Book Fair: Chapter I, will be on October 22nd. Although this is the second book fair event, we've called it Chapter I because our first one was titled The Introductory Event, preparing our supporters for what's to come—like the beginning of a novel.
Where can we find out more?
Follow us on Instagram @blkbookfair or visit www.Blkbookfair.com.
Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD)
- Founder and Executive Director: Jael Richardson
- Background: Black Canadian of African American descent
- Kids Coordinator (Literary programs for children aged 0-18): Ardo Omer
- Background: Somali Canadian
- Location: Brampton, ON
- Year of operation: The FOLD Foundation (2014) Festival of Literary Diversity (2016) Kids’ Festival (2019)
Tell me about the FOLD’s literary successes.
Jael: Success at festivals and with organizations is often measured by how big your audience is, how many tickets you sell, and how you grow from one year to the next. And while I could provide great numbers in those areas, I’m most proud of some of the intangibles. I’m proud of our ability to transition into a virtual space, where we’ve created a new way of engaging with audiences worldwide. I’m proud of the culture we’ve created for our authors, staff and volunteers.
How does the FOLD encourage literacy in Black children/communities?
Ardo: We've created a relationship with schools where they have access to our content that hopefully informs how they engage their Black students. We recently did a Black in School event with authors Curtis Carmichael, Kern Carter, and Habiba Cooper Diallo at FOLD. Educator Skye Bowen moderated the conversation, and we got incredible feedback from the educators. Two authors also engaged with Black students in person at a well-received school.
Every year, our reading lists and events feature Black Canadian authors, which has been an absolute pleasure finding these authors and then reading their works. There are many popular Black writers in KidLit, but they're often Americans, so we try to highlight the ones in Canada that teachers should shelve in their libraries and teach in their classrooms. I've also seen an influx of picture books that speak to Black children directly by Black Canadians. These include Jael Richardson's Because You Are with illustrator Nneka Myers, Rahma Rodaah's Dear Black Child, Khodi Dill's Little Black Lives Matter with illustrator Chelsea Charles, and Dear Black Girls by Shanice Nicole and illustrator Kezna Dalz.
What's next for FOLD?
Ardo: FOLD Kids Book Fest will take place November 8-12, 2022. November 8-10 will focus primarily on online events in our Virtual Clubhouse. With a virtual pass, educators and adults can access all of our kid content to watch on demand for a month. In addition to our sessions and workshops, the space will include access to resources and an interactive scavenger hunt for kids. We’ll also host free in-person events on November 10 and 12 at the Brampton Civic Centre. Registration and a full schedule will be available as of October 6.