Believe it or not, Manitoba has a great literary tradition. Did you know that we launched the first Canadian Reader’s Choice Award for kids? Waaaayyyy back in 1990, it was the International Year of Literacy and Winnipeg Public Library along with several other organizations thought it would be a great idea to try to encourage children in grades 5 through 8 to read Canadian books and vote for their favorite. Why tweens? Because that is the time when children transition to reading independently. Just like learning to ride a bike, you need to travel on familiar territory and keep practising until you get the hang of it. Reading can be challenging for kids and with that thought in mind, MYRCA was created to make reading fun.
After all, voting for a favorite book is fun! Every May, readers are presented with a long list of 18 Canadian titles. Throughout the year, kids can read their way through the 2016 nominees. As long as tweens read 3 books, they are eligible to vote in March. No fees required. http://www.myrca.ca/voting-procedures/
This year, MYRCA wanted to have a huge 25th anniversary bash. “Let’s bring in 3 authors instead of just one,” they said. “Let’s have book tours,” they said. “Let’s have readings in the Winnipeg Public Library,” they said. “Let’s have a Speed-Date-with-an-Author dinner,” they said. “Let’s ask SAGE to have a Canadian Stories Theme,” they said. “Let’s get Ace Burpee,” I said.
Yes, over here in the MYRCA committee, we dream big.
But we also work hard. Winnipeg Public Library, Winnipeg Children’s Literature Roundtable (WCLR) and Manitoba School Library Association (MSLA) partnered with the MYRCA committee to plan a week’s worth of events for all levels of interest. We decided to bring in our winner, David Carroll, and both honour book winners, Kelley Armstrong and Tom Earle. Winnipeg Public Library hosted all three at the Millennium Library and 3 more in the branches; Carol Matas, Larry Verstraete and Jennifer Dance. Rural school visits were organized for our local authors. The WCLR’s Authors at the Round Table Dinner gave authors and fans of all ages, a chance to mingle together. MSLA hosted all the authors for teachers on their professional development day, SAGE. And MYRCA hosted the most ambitious Award Ceremony in its history. We even got Ace Burpee!
Hard to believe it’s all over. After over a year of planning, countless meetings, thousands of emails, fundraising and worrying… you wonder, was it worth it?
You would have to ask the kids whose bright, shining, happy faces were beaming wildly with joy at meeting the authors whose books they loved. You would have to ask the teachers who rely on the MYRCA list every year to find great Canadian books for their classes. You would have to ask the authors who are ridiculously proud to be chosen by their readers for this award. You only need to search #MYRCA25 or #Cdnstoriesweek on Twitter to see for yourselves.
This year’s MYRCA winner was David Carroll for the novel Ultra.
In it, Quinn is running the longest race of his young life and he faces many obstacles. But, like his author, Quinn is determined to stay positive. Never give up! Always believe that you can do better! Don’t let those little voices in your head bring you down! David’s inspiring and uplifting message was appreciated by everyone he met, including Ace Burpee. Ace’s reaction upon finding out that David can repeat sentences backwards, was to test it out. True Story! Clearly pleased that David had such an awesome hidden talent, Ace’s reaction was: “I have to hang out with writers more often.”
Yes, you do Ace. And to all those kids who asked “how can I become a writer?” I think David Carroll’s answer was perfect: “have interesting friends.” Here at WPL, we have really interesting, supportive, fearless friends. Friends who dedicate their volunteer time to working for a common goal: literacy! When partnerships work out as well as they did last week, Manitoba wins! And we can all be immensely proud of that.