Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Literacy Programs

Welcome to the
Republic of Childhood:
Learning from the Future


To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child we are convening a Republic of Childhood Youth Forum— bringing together children and youth from Canada's capital region with researchers, policymakers, and community organizers from Canada, the United States, Germany, Australia and Ireland. We will organize ten five-week writing workshops that will engage children and youth across Ottawa in learning about children's rights and imagining a future informed by the voices and visions of young people. The student participants will work with acclaimed local authors and graduate student facilitators to develop their own creative pieces. The participants' original works will be published as chapbooks, and, between November20-22, 2019, the young writers will work on their visions for the future and discuss the pressing challenges for and concerns of Canada's children and youth. The proceedings of the summit will be captured on video and published online.


New Ways of Teaching and Learning


This project is guided by a children's rights perspective that honours the participation of children and youth by organizing a network of stakeholders who can support children and youth in expressing their views and drive decision-making processes that impact their lives. The 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (November 20, 2019) provides a unique opportunity to launch this innovative outreach activity that will facilitate deeper relations between the research communities and stakeholders in the field of child and youth education. The Forum will highlight the importance of creativity and critical thinking in discovering new ways of teaching and learning. 


This project emerges, in particular, from the tenets of five Articles of the Convention, Articles 12, 13, 15, 24 and 29. Article 12 establishes the right of participation, which acknowledges the right of children to express their views in all matters affecting them. Article 13 recognizes the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice. Article 15 acknowledges children’s freedom of association, their right to meet with others and to join and form associations. Article 24 guarantees the child’s right to the highest Standard of health including the right to nutritious food, safe drinking water and protection from environmental pollution. Article 29 is related to the child’s right to information on environmental health issues and defines environmental education as one of the goals of education.  


A More Just Society

By bringing together academics, educators, teachers, children's and young adult writers in a celebration and examination of the Rights of the Child, we hope to build a network around an annual event that will provide timely insights into the role of children and young adults in creating a more just society. This outreach activity will build bridges between leading international academic institutions, think tanks, school boards, public libraries and international literary festivals. 

The Writers Festival was born in 1997, and in 1999 we introduced our writers-in-schools program which, to date, has connected well over 100 Canadian and international writers in all genres with more that 30,000 young learners throughout the region.


The Republic of Childhood is a direct response to teachers, parents, librarians and, of course, kids themselves who desire a more intensive writing experience where kids are front and centre in the delivery of books, stories and the writing life. 


The Republic of Childhood was launched on Universal Children’s Day, and the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20th, 2017. 

Putting Children First

Creativity, curiosity and innovation come naturally to children. The Republic of Childhood is a space where these natural gifts are nourished and protected in a safe and loving environment.

Back Story

We are indebted to the tireless work and inspiration of Senator Landon Pearson who, for almost half a century, has been a devoted champion of the well-being and rights of the child.


Upon her retirement from the Senate in 2005, Landon Pearson moved with all her documents and papers to Carleton University where she directs a Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights that has been established in her name. 

Community and Social Development

We’ve been bringing the best storytellers and illustrators from around the world into contact with kids throughout the region since 1999. Our Write On! youth literacy program includes the free in-school and in-library literacy events, along with a series of hands on workshops with acclaimed authors.


In many ways, the workshops, author readings and energetic Q&A sessions with thousands of children each year—many from Ottawa’s most disadvantaged and challenged schools—is perhaps the most important program we offer. As our schools struggle to boost their standings in province-wide comparisons, and with reading showing the least improvement of ‘the three Rs’, our commitment is to intensify our efforts to build on the results we’re seeing from these programs.


The costs, both financial and spiritual, of the literacy crisis in Canada are devastating, and it is part of our mandate to develop solutions to the extreme challenges of this situation.


We have worked closely, not only with children, but with the homeless, new Canadians, First Nations, and parolees to create writing and publishing opportunities as well as other basic skills that will enable these citizens to gain self-esteem and to overcome obstacles in achieving their full potential.

Write On!


Literacy is a birthright. Every donation opens the door for one more student. Click the button below to make a tax-creditable donation or call us at (613) 562-1243 for more information.


Last year, more than 3,000 primary and secondary students were able to participate - a huge increase from the 400 we reached in 1999. But demand for this important program far outstrips our funding to deliver it. 


To Apply

The Festival is pleased to offer grants covering all associated costs of school visits through our children’s literacy program.

To apply for a free school appearance this Fall, please email Leslie Wilson with the number and age range of students (Minimum 100) your preferred date and time and school contact information.