A Tribute to David Booth

CODE, the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators, is grieving the loss of one of our founders and honorary members, David Booth. David has taught, mentored, inspired, and motivated thousands of students and teachers during his years as an educator. His loss is being felt keenly all around the world and we, as an organization and as individuals, are deeply sad.

David Booth was Professor Emeritus and Scholar in Residence at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where he has worked in arts and literacy education. He was also the Elizabeth Thorn Chair of the Centre for Literacy at the Schulich School of Education, Nipissing University. He was educated in Ontario, and completed his graduate work at Oxford University and Durham University in England.

For over fifty years, Dr. Booth has been involved in education as a classroom teacher, language arts consultant, professor, speaker and author. His students have included grade 6 and 7 students, elementary and secondary teachers and administrators, and many graduate students as a course instructor and supervisor. Each summer, he taught drama courses in different universities throughout Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, the Czech Republic, Austria, China, and India. To learn more about David's inspiring work, visit our blog 'David Booth in Conversation.'

Over the last forty years, David has authored many books and textbooks in all areas of language development and the arts in education: drama, early literacy, reading, writing, speaking and listening, boys and literacy, and media. A popular international speaker, David Booth has addressed educators and parents in every province of Canada, throughout most American states, and in the UK, Germany, Austria, Asia, the Mid-East, New Zealand and Australia.

David was named 'Educator of the Year' by Phi Delta Kappan in 2011.  In 2008, Nipissing University gave David an honorary Doctorate. David was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards by the National Association of Drama Educators, UK, in 2007 and by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education in 2006.

This brief biography and list of achievements barely touches the surface of David’s accomplishments. His work in Drama in Education is best captured in these words by one of his former graduate students, Kaila Kukla: 

Drama in education seeks to deepen children's understanding of themselves, others, and the world they live in as they build an improvised drama through a process of group interaction and self-exploration. Booth believes that these aims are achieved when the children are committed to the dramatic situation. He also believes that learning takes place when the children are required to be authentic in their response to the drama. Although the children are encouraged to create imaginary worlds, their response to the problems, conflicts, and characters of the world must be real. It is Booth's ability to elicit both commitment and authenticity that distinguishes him as a teacher. His studio brims with excitement as children in the demonstration classes are inspired to share ideas, work cooperatively, stretch their imaginations, and express themselves fully through the medium of drama.

In the words of one of his former grade 8 students, David Ossea, who is now a retired Drama teacher:

He was a great man who influenced every decision I ever made as a teacher. He shaped my entire life. He left behind lessons and books and a philosophy and thousands of teachers who will use his lessons and books and philosophy to do good in the world--you can't leave behind a greater legacy than that

CODE is part of David’s legacy. He helped to found and shape the organization since its inception in 1970 and served on the CODE board several times. Over the years, David has delivered speeches and workshops at many CODE conferences. At CODE’s 40th anniversary conference, David moved the audience with his powerful retrospective keynote presentation ’40 Years of Drama’, based on his life’s work in classrooms with educators and students. In many circles, he was known affectionately as the grandfather of CODE.

David Booth shaped the lives of so many of us who teach drama here in Ontario and all around the world. David’s caustic wit, sharp observations, and passionate commitment to learning have filled us with laughter, love, and a determination to be the best Drama teachers we can be.

We will continue to share what he has taught us.


With love and appreciation,

The CODE Management Board

Please note: OISE has released an announcement that a private funeral service will be held in Byron, Minnesota. A celebration of David’s life will be held in the spring of 2019, and more details will be provided after the New Year. CODE will share more information when it is available.