‘Bringing More Canadian Books to Classrooms’: Ontario’s New Strategy

In Feature Articles by Carla Douglas

Publishers are submitting their proposals for a quarter-million dollars’ worth of grants to promote Canadian literature to Ontario’s teachers, librarians, and school boards in a new three-year pilot project.

Image – iStockphoto: Monkey Business

Many more of Canada’s biggest literary authors might now be promoted for the consideration of teachers, school board members and librarians in Ontario, thanks to a new grants program that helps publishers spotlight their work. —Porter Anderson

By Carla Douglas | @CarlaJDouglas

Deadline for Publishers’ Proposals: August 16

Eleanor McMahon

Otario’s minister of tourism, culture and sport, Eleanor McMahon, has released details of a new initiative to promote “acclaimed works of Canadian literature” in education.

McMahon’s announcement this month details the Canadian Books in Ontario Schools Fund, which is to support publishers in the creation of “supplementary resources, including curriculum-linked lesson plans, activities and discussion guides, to complement acclaimed works of Canadian literature.”

The fund is a three-year pilot project, developed in consultation with educators and Ontario-based publishers. The $250,000 annual fund will be administered by the Ontario Media Development Corporation and will support the development of resources that complement existing works of Canadian literature. Ontario-based publishers with a Canadian publishing program and literary titles suitable for kindergarten to grade 12 are eligible for grants from the fund.

In addition to supporting the development of resources, an important second stream of the fund is to support marketing initiatives targeting discoverability of the resources and promoting them among education professionals.

‘Group or Collective Marketing Projects’

Publishing Perspectives asked Jeff Costen, press secretary to McMahon, to describe the marketing stream in more detail.

Jeff Costen

Jeff Costen: The marketing support available from the Canadian Books in Ontario Schools Fund is entirely dedicated to raising awareness of supplementary resources attached to works of Canadian literature among educators including classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, and administrators involved in the selection of supplementary resources.

In order to meet our objective of supporting more Canadian books in Ontario schools, the fund will support group or collective marketing projects that raise awareness of the availability of supplementary resources to support learning and teaching through the curriculum to education professionals.

Activities supported by this stream will be dedicated to the promotion of supplementary resources for Canadian works of literature, and may include, but are not limited to, collective:

  • Displays, demonstrations, etc., at teacher professional development activities, including appropriate conferences;
  • Partnerships with library and school wholesalers;
  • Work with educational consultants on targeted outreach to classrooms and/or teacher librarians;
  • Delivery of the supplementary resources via digital/online platforms;
  • Creation of marketing materials, as appropriate;
  • Costs of advertising, social media, and other PR outreach strategies;
  • Event costs (facility rental, permits, signage, technical services etc.); and
  • Author presentations and workshops in classrooms.

Publishing Perspectives: How will the fund’s success be measured or evaluated?

“Bringing more Canadian books into the classroom is an important way to expose children to Canada’s best authors and stories, and will help introduce these works to a whole new generation.”Ministry Information on the Canadian Books in Ontario Schools Fund

JC: As we move forward with this pilot project, we’ll be working with recipients to ensure that their projects contribute to increased availability of Canadian literary works in Ontario schools. Among the reporting requirements for recipients of the fund is a detailed outline of the initiatives they’ve undertaken including any measurable successes, both financially and otherwise.

Fund recipients will also be required to provide feedback on the process, business development benefits and other outcomes, which will provide a basis for evaluating the program. As this is the inaugural year of the pilot program, outcomes from year one will be used to inform our evaluation criteria for years two and three.

‘Resources Assessed by Teachers to Improve Them’

Publishing Perspectives also asked David Caron, co-publisher of ECW Press and president of the Ontario Book Publishers Organization, about both the publisher’s role and the literary works eligible for the fund.

David Caron

David Caron: Most publishers that have books suitable for use in schools have already created learning resources for a number of titles.

What’s possible now with the new funding is a number of things:

  • The creation of resources for titles for which those resources don’t exist;
  • The creation of new resources where the current resources are not robust enough;
  • Getting existing (and new) resources assessed by teachers in order to improve them; and
  • Most importantly, funding for collective initiatives to market those resources and titles to teachers and education professionals.

This funding has two components: the creation of resources and the collective outreach to teachers so that we can create more awareness of Canadian-authored titles suitable for the curriculum.

Publishers will be specifying the titles for which they’re creating resources as part of the funding application. They don’t have to have [them] pre-approved for a specific grade, or on a pre-approved list, because a very important part is that second component: creating awareness of which texts are suitable.

Resources developed from the first round of books-in-schools grants will be available for classroom use for the 2018 school year and might qualify for posting on TV Ontario’s TeachOntario portal for discovery and distribution.

About the Author

Carla Douglas

Carla Douglas is a writer and editor, and most recently is the author of You’ve Got Style: A Writer’s Guide to Copyediting. She was a contributing researcher for the first edition of The Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage, and is co-author of the Don’t Panic series of literacy resources for high school students.