This spring, Market Lane public and senior school students had a very special chance to learn about Canadian literature and publishing, as they were invited by the Ontario Arts Council to field the juries for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz children’s book awards.
The winners were announced on May 20 at a gala ceremony in the school gym attended by members of the Schwartz family and one of the winning authors, Alma Fullerton. The winner in the children’s picture book category, juried by students of grades 3 and 4, was Chester’s Back by Mélanie Watt of Montreal, published by Kids Can Press. The young adult/middle reader award winner, chosen by a jury from grades 7 and 8, was Libertad by Midland native Fullerton.
The awards have a long and prestigious history in Canadian children’s writing, having first been bestowed in 1976, when the first winner was Mordecai Richler’s Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang.
Grade 2/3 teacher Caitland Ellis found the whole experience very fulfilling for herself and her students.
“It was about a two-month timeline. We met with the OAC to plan it and then introduced it to the kids. Even though there were only seven jurors in each category we wanted to make it a project for the whole class. So in the grades 3 and 4 we introduced a book a week and the whole class read them, rated them, corresponded with OAC.
For the jurors we chose students that are critical thinkers. These kids are the internet generation, they’re totally immersed in it, but at school we downplay the net and there is a big emphasis on books. The students learn the joy of reading, and the simple joy of seeing, holding and reading the book,” said Ellis.
Following the ceremony, all hands adjourned to the library for a literary reception featuring juice, coffee and some seriously chocolate cupcakes.