What We Do

The Word On The Street is a national celebration of reading, writing, and literacy. Each September, 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.

Mission, Vision & Values

Our Mission: The Word On The Street champions reading and writing in Canada primarily through a free celebration of storytelling, ideas, and imagination. 

The Word On The Street values:

Canadian and Indigenous writers

We champion authors with respect for their labour and enthusiasm for their craft

Diversity and inclusion

We create accessible, welcoming events that prioritize marginalized voices

Reading and literacy

We champion reading and literature in all its forms

Variety in programming

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

Festival History

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: M.G. Vassanji, Elizabeth Hay, Margaret Atwood, Alistair MacLeod, Vincent Lam, Robert Munsch, David Suzuki, Chantal Hebert, Stuart McLean, André Alexis, Cherie Dimaline, David Chariandy, Tanya Talaga, and Sharon Bala.

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. 

Inclusivity & Accessibility Statement

We at WOTS Toronto are committed to creating an environment at our events and in our internal team relations that is respectful and inclusive for all.

This is also reflected in our programming mandate and author selection each year, prioritizing the work of artists who are part of marginalized communities and accepting and integrating 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 2021.

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.

For 2020, we will be providing live closed captioning to as many events as we can secure funding for, and all other 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, as well as designating a quiet room for use of attendees. We are due for another accessibility audit, as our last was completed in 2017 and we have made improvements based on the results of that report. 

We at WOTS Toronto are committed to continually improving the festival experience for everyone, and will continue to put into practice the relevant accessibility standards and prioritize these needs.
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: 

David Alexander
Festival Director

Maya Baumann
Programming Manager