Moose Jaw sets high Reading Town standard

Nathan Liewicki
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École St. Margaret students (left to right) Fanes Thul, Billy McLean and William Tipper, were spotted reading books at Crescent Park on May 6 in conjunction with Reading Town Canada's "Drop Everything and Read" idea. After a week's worth of events, Reading Town came to a close Saturday

Highlights abound from National Reading Campaign

It is not often you order a pizza and when it’s delivered to your residence you find a poem attached to the box.

Walking into a coffee shop and seeing books wrapped up with varying clues written on them as to what they are about is also out of the norm – especially since they were free.

Those were a couple of the small things Reading Town Canada did to mark its inaugural reading campaign in the Friendly City.

The eight-day event concluded Saturday, but not before it left quite the impression on the National Reading Campaign’s executive director.

“One highlight was how Moose Jaw – as a community – has embraced it,” James Roy said of Reading Town. “There are some quite amazing people in town who are very generous and very anxious to do things on behalf of the community. Not every town has that.”

Other events and activities Roy pointed out as highlights of Reading Town – of which there were more than 50 – included the Dueling Poets on May 9, the numerous flash mobs students took part in and literary scavenger hunts.

“For kids it just introduces an element of something else,” Roy said of the flash mobs. “It makes reading fun, even though the least thing they probably did at the flash mob was probably read.”

Joe Ralko was the project co-ordinator. Although he lives just down the Trans-Canada Highway in Regina, Ralko told the Times-Herald the week turned out to be “beyond our wildest expectations.”

“We set a very high standard in Moose Jaw, so if the National Reading Campaign wants to hold this event somewhere else in Canada in the future, they will have to go a long way to try and equal what happened in Moose Jaw,” said Ralko.

Roy was optimistic this pilot project would lead to Reading Town becoming an annual event in cities across Canada. He even went as far as suggesting Moose Jaw could host Reading Town years down the road.

He did, however, express one fear he has about the future of the event.

“My fear is, of course, that no other town will actually be able to come up to Moose Jaw in terms of participation and involvement, but hopefully that’s not the case,” Roy said in between chuckles.

“There are some great communities in the country, but this is certainly one that does stand head and shoulders above a lot in terms of its ability to get engaged and its sense of civic pride.”

Roy did note that whether or not Reading Town Canada happens in 2015 – in spring or fall – that there are some things that need to be improved upon, including working harder to get people out to events. He said it is challenging because he and his team were not in the community more than a couple of days in advance.

Nevertheless, he said some of the goals of the National Reading Campaign – to promote the importance of reading for pleasure and raise the awareness of reading – were achieved this past week.

Left surprisingly unexpected with how great the week turned out, Roy said he hopes Reading Town left a short-term legacy in the community.

“I hope there is a legacy … that this has raised awareness of reading and authors, and more people will come out and support the Festival of Words in July.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Trans-Canada Highway, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Friendly, Canada Regina

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