The Word On The Street is a national celebration of reading, writing, and literacy. Each year, we host hundreds of author readings for visitors of all ages and a vibrant marketplace featuring the best selection of books and magazines in Canada. Join us (for free!) as we share vital stories about where we live.
Our Mission: The Word On The Street champions reading and writing in Canada through a free annual festival and year-round literary programming that celebrates storytelling, ideas, and imagination.
The Word On The Street values:
We champion authors with respect for their labour and enthusiasm for their craft
We create accessible, welcoming events that prioritize marginalized voices
We champion reading and literature in all its forms
We facilitate programming for readers of all ages and appetites
We support aspiring and emerging writers of all ages
We are honest, open, ethical, and fair
In the late eighties, the very straight-forwardly named Promotions Committee of the Book and Periodical Council faced an important question: how might they better promote Canadian authors, books, magazines, and literacy? After some intense brainstorming, they’d come to an answer. What this country really needed, dang it, was a large-scale street festival to celebrate the written word! And where better to host it than Toronto, the publishing capital of Canada? A board was appointed, a staff hired, an office established, and just like that, in September 1990 (which, by no accident, was International Literacy Year), The Toronto Book and Magazine Festival – a.k.a. The Word On The Street, a.k.a. WOTS – was the coolest new literary festival on the block.
Since its inception, WOTS has grown from a fledgling festival of 40,000 booklovers to become Canada’s largest annual book and magazine festival: a weekend-long bookworm bonanza, attracting more than 200,000 visitors each year. For some, this level of success can be hard to handle – they might get a big head, lose sight of what matters most, or have a public meltdown and go down in Youtube infamy. But not The Word On The Street! Through the years, the festival has stayed true to its founding principles of fostering awareness and appreciation of the written word in our culture, and doubled down on its commitment to promoting local artists, championing literacy, and bringing Torontonians together for the biggest celebration of reading this fine metropolis has ever seen. Exhibit space is always available at cost to small presses, independent authors, and writing associations, and literacy organizations are accommodated at no charge. And as WOTS has grown in reputation and size, it has also grown in scope, expanding to sister festivals across the country and developing additional year-round programming. What can we say? The people want more WOTS, and we want to give the people what they want!
The festival’s place in the national literary community has attracted some of Canada’s most celebrated authors, including: Sarah Polley, Catherine Hernandez, M.G. Vassanji, Elizabeth Hay, Margaret Atwood, Alistair MacLeod, Vincent Lam, Kenneth Oppel, Robert Munsch, David Suzuki, Chantal Hebert, Stuart McLean, André Alexis, Cherie Dimaline, David Chariandy, Tanya Talaga, Sharon Bala, Dionne Brand, and Waubgeshig Rice.
Over the years, The Word On Street has in fact occupied many a street: Queen West, Queen’s Park, and Harbourfront Centre (which isn’t really in fact a street, but why get hung up on technicalities?). But maybe, just maybe, the most important place the festival occupies is the hearts of so many book-loving Canadians.
In 2022, the annual festival returned to the streets of Toronto after spending two years in the virtual realm due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual festival moved to a two-day format held in the spring at Queen’s Park, plus a community pop-up event in the fall that will animate neighbourhoods throughout the city. In the digital realm, The Word On The Street continues to host virtual workshops and produces the popular Read the North podcast.
Voted one of Toronto’s best local festivals, The Word On The Street is a place to celebrate the stories that connect us!
We at WOTS Toronto are committed to creating an environment at our events and within our team relations that is respectful and inclusive for all.
This is also reflected in our programming mandate and author selection each year, as we prioritize the work of artists who are part of marginalized communities and welcome and integrate the opinions of folks outside of our organization who have different perspectives. We acknowledge that this process can be more formalized, and this is a goal for us as we move forward.
We at WOTS Toronto are committed to increasing the accessibility of our events so that all attendees can join us in celebrating books, ideas, and imagination in a way that is safe and comfortable, with dignity and respect.
We will be providing ASL interpretation or live closed captioning to as many events as we can secure funding for, and all other virtual events will be captioned by the automatic function on YouTube and later corrected by staff as the festival progresses.
For our past and future in-person events, we work with our venues to provide accessible entrances, seating, washroom access, and a designated quiet room for use by attendees. We also conduct accessibility audits and continue to make improvements based on the results of these reports.
We at WOTS Toronto are committed to continually improving the festival experience for everyone, and we will continue to put into practice the relevant accessibility standards and prioritize these needs. Please visit the Accessibility and Safety section of our Code of Conduct page for more details.
If you are an author, an attendee, or anyone in between and require an accommodation not described here, we are happy to help. Please reach out to: