Telling Tales aims to inspire the love of reading in children
C/O Alyssa Lai
Children's book campaign celebrates Canadian authors while striving to improve literacy in children
Telling Tales aspires to spark the love of reading in children and young adults while also highlighting the works of Canadian authors.
Susan Jasper, the founder and executive director of Telling Tales, grew up in Hamilton and spent around 20 years working in publishing. During this time, she dreamed of starting a children and young adults' book festival.
This dream was left on the back burner until she joined the Rotary club in 2006. She was able to launch Telling Tales with the Rotary club’s support that same year.
The Rotary clubs in Hamilton and Burlington helped coordinate volunteers, manage finances and spread the word on a campaign aimed to improve children's literacy and go beyond instilling the love of reading.
"I kept saying to authors, “We need our own festival, I'm tired of us being in a little kiddy corner of some other big festival.” Children's marketing audiences are different and we need a place where we can just really concentrate on kids," explained Jasper.
Telling Tales recently held their first in-person festival since the pandemic from Sept. 24 to 25 at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Over the two days, they had over 30 presenters and Canadian children's illustrators, storytellers and authors for readers of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers and young adults.
The festival provided a unique opportunity for readers to connect with authors. Lawrence Hill, a Hamiltonian author who received the Governor General award for his book, The Book of Negroes, presented his first children's book Beatrice and Croc Harry on stage.
The festival also featured the Hamilton Children's Choir, Hamilton youth poets, puppet stages, workshops for attendees of all ages and a book swap involving over 30,000 books.
"I hope [the attendees] walk away with memories that last a lifetime," said Jasper.
In the future, Telling Tales plans to offer some live stream events with Canadian authors and illustrators from Oct. to Dec. They hope that these events will allow them to continue engaging children and young adults with books and expand their reach to children outside of Canada as well.
The organization also recently started to diversify their book lists to include more BIPOC authors in an effort to introduce children to different cultures and situations from a young age.
"One of the things that we've really worked hard on over the last couple of years is diversifying our authors and diversifying our book choices, because we want [all] kids to see themselves in the story," explained Linda Cvetanovic, the social media manager for Telling Tales.
Next year will be Telling Tales’ fifteenth anniversary and they hope to plan a larger event to commemorate the occasion. Regardless, though, moving forward, they hope to continue reaching out to more readers and helping them discover Canadian culture through their book lists.
"Canadian authors don't always get the love they deserve. It's kind of like Canadian musicians. It's hard sometimes to really gain that popularity in your own country. So, we love introducing kids to homegrown authors, illustrators, storytellers who can inspire them to become an author or an illustrator," said Jasper.