Celebrating 20 Years!
Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Awards (SYRCA) – The Willow Awards Inc.
September 15, 2001 – First Official Board Meeting
2021 is a special time for SYRCA as we are celebrating our 20th anniversary of bringing quality Canadian children’s literature to the children and youth of our province. Each year, 30 books are nominated and students read and vote on their favourites. The three winning authors of this vote are given a Willow Award, one in each category of Shining (K- Grade 3), Diamond (Grades 4-6), and Snow (Grades 7 and up). Over 20 years, there have been a total of 600 nominated books, and 60 winners – all quality Canadian children’s literature. The numbers are mind boggling!
The Willow Awards Board has decided that the 20th anniversary deserves a special year of initiatives. Several resources and activities have been planned. The following list outlines some of the initiatives that will occur during the 2021-2022 celebration year.
- Branding/marketing – A special 20th anniversary logo was created to be used throughout the year as well as a poster for each award that showcases the winners for the past 19 years. These posters will be available to download as a pdf on the Willow Awards website.
- Honouring the history – An article recapping the history of the awards will be circulated and posted on the website. The annual report for each year will also be posted there.
- Promotions – Regular articles, press releases, and ads will be published to highlight the events of the anniversary year.
- Two Contests – Look for information about the “Willows All-Star Contest” running from September 1, 2021 – February 28, 2022 and the “20th Anniversary Author Contest” running from October 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022. Winners of these contests will have an opportunity to arrange an author reading or visit via zoom. Information can be found on the website.
- Gala – This year’s gala will include additional anniversary celebrations.
The Willows longevity can be attributed to a variety of factors. Our volunteer network is incredible! It includes our hard-working board members who have created a stable and sustainable organization since its visioning in the fall of 2000. This has included ongoing involvement of the Saskatchewan Library Association, (SLA), and the Saskatchewan School Library Association (SSLA) and the Literacy Educators Network of Saskatchewan (LENS) joined now into the Literacy Educators and Resources Network (LEARN).
We have also had many volunteers serve on our three reading committees. Over 20 years, they have read between 300 and 500 nominated titles each year, approximately 10,000 books since our inception. We have also appreciated the tremendous support our organization has received from teachers, teacher-librarians, librarians, and families that engage students with the nominated books. This has happened through displays, in-school and library programs, launch and gala events, and voting for their favourites. Without all of our volunteers, our Saskatchewan children and youth would not have had the opportunity to vote upon and select their yearly favourites.
In addition to our wonderful volunteers, sponsors have been an integral part of the Willow Awards. Thanks go to all companies and organizations that have provided funds each year to support our work. A special thanks goes to SaskEnergy for their ongoing support of the annual Gala event. Also, the Willow Awards would not have been successful without the aid of publishers that submit books to be reviewed or the communities across the province that have supported our fund-raising events.
The books nominated for each years’ Willow Awards are a guaranteed asset to schools, libraries and families that are committed to bringing great reading opportunities to children. Suggested activities to further engage readers can be found on the Willow Awards website.
Please consider joining the Willow Awards team. Go to the official website for more information (www.willowawards.ca). There, you can sign up for regular updates. You can also follow the Willow Awards on Facebook or Twitter.
We are most thankful that, for twenty years, students throughout the province have been able to read and vote for their favourite books. Young readers are the motivation and core of the Willow Awards!