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Justin Crann
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Moose Jaw given inaugural honours by National Reading Campaign

Community spirit, a reputation for involvement and “the best city name in the country” were key factors favouring Moose Jaw when it was selected as the inaugural Reading Town Canada.

James Roy, executive director for the National Reading Campaign, said Moose Jaw has been very receptive since it was selected to be the inaugural Reading Town Canada.

“The cities that really have a highly developed sense of civic spirit are fairly unusual, and (Moose Jaw) is big in size for that. Often those communities are much smaller,” said James Roy. “We did some more investigation … and so we didn’t look any further. I’m sure there are some other cities and towns that would have been good, but we liked the idea of Moose Jaw.

“And I know you take it for granted when you live here, but it has a pretty neat name,” he added. “There is no other Moose Jaw in the world … there are no conflicting towns.”

A highly visible arts and literary community and the presence of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words were other factors that played into the decision.

“Moose Jaw is a great town, I would say. … People are very friendly, and they’re very engaged,” Roy said. “The people who are here are what make the town worth living in, for themselves and for everybody else.”

The goal behind Reading Town Canada is to promote the love of reading — and not just because it’s good for people.

“We’re trying to have fun with this,” said Roy. “Nothing is earnest. Nothing is very serious. The readings are the readings, but this is all about having fun. We’re about reading for pleasure.”

In fact, he added, reading is valuable as a stress reliever and “also promotes civic engagement” while being “the best way to understand people who are different from ourselves.

“The bottom line is we would like for people to understand that reading for pleasure is important for themselves and their community, and we’d like to encourage them to do more of it, and encourage their children to do it,” said Roy.

The long-term ambition is to use Moose Jaw’s designation as a pilot project, and to carry the Reading Town concept into other communities across Canada in the future.

The Moose Jaw campaign features dozens of ongoing and one-off events, some open to the public and others specific to certain organizations and institutions, being held over the course of the next week.

Prairie South and Holy Trinity school divisions are on board involving their own students in different events throughout the week, Roy said, including a breakfast where students are encouraged to dress up as their favourite literary characters and a flash mob at city hall.

Even businesses are on board, he noted, highlighting a particular example called Pizza Pie Poems: from May 3 to 10, customers of all but two of the city’s pizza parlours will receive a Canadian poem with their pizza orders.

While the National Reading Campaign took the concept around the city, it was up to individual groups to climb on board — and they did, said Roy.

“What we’re providing is an interesting idea and an opportunity to get involved and have fun in a way that makes sense with respect to who you are,” said Roy. “This is just a lot of little things, but it comprises one big thing.”

For more information about the "little things" in store for Moose Jaw as part of Reading Town Canada celebrations, visit the event's website.

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter.

Organizations: Reading Town Canada, Holy Trinity school

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Canada

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