Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

One Book, One Island

Daniel Bourgeois
Acadian and Francophone Affairs
Government of Prince Edward Island


In 2011, the Prince Edward Island (PEI) Public Library Service sought answers to three important questions. First, how can one encourage literacy on PEI? Second, how can one better promote Canadian literature on PEI? And third, how can one bring Islanders to discuss a work of literature? Also, how can one encourage literacy, promote Canadian literature and foster dialogue on a book in both French and English? The answer: the bilingual “One Book, One Island” initiative.

The initiative is the equivalent of a book club to which the population of the entire province is invited. The Public Library Service picks a book, then encourages Islanders to read it and discuss it with their friends, family, neighbours and even tourists visiting PEI. Numerous copies of the book are made available throughout the year in various formats in each of the 26 public libraries, including the three libraries designated bilingual by virtue of the French Language Services Act: the public library in Abram-Village, the J.-Henri-Blanchard Public Library in Summerside and the J.-Edmond-Arsenault Public Library in Charlottetown. Public libraries organize events linked to the initiative during the summer to encourage discussions about the book. Also, the author visits PEI to discuss the book and celebrate the initiative and literacy.

Social media play an important role in the initiative. News and information on the initiative are posted on the Public Library Service website. By consulting the site, people can reserve a copy of the book, find information about the author and his or her other books, obtain recommendations for related books, find discussion questions for the book, or find information about “One Book, One Island” events at a local library branch.

The Public Library Service also collaborates with bookstores where copies of the book are sold. Bookstore clients who present their PEI public library card while purchasing a copy of the book receive a ten percent discount.

Books chosen since 2011 include Still Life by Louise Penny, The Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle and Island: The Collected Short Stories by Alistair MacLeod. In 2014, fourteen titles by Island authors were chosen as part of a special edition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference that led to the Canadian federation in 1867.

In 2015, Maureen Jennings’ novel Except the Dying was selected. The book helped inspire the CBC television series Murdoch Mysteries. Jennings was on Prince Edward Island July 14 to16 and hosted events each evening in three public libraries.

From the outset, the Public Library Service wanted to promote literacy in French as well as in English. The chosen book is thus available in both languages. Louise Penny, who is fluently bilingual, made her presentation and answered questions in both languages at the J.-Henri-Blanchard Public Library in Summerside. Acadian author Georges Arsenault’s The Acadians of Summerside was one of the fourteen books chosen in 2014. “One Book, One Island” fosters an Island-wide discussion – in French as well as in English – on literacy.