Friday, May 9, 2008

We need to be ‘Reading Heroes!”

We need to be ‘Reading Heroes!”

This week I attended the launch of the Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP) to improve literacy in remote Indigenous communities. A joint effort between Australian publishers, booksellers and authors in conjunction with the Fred Hollows Foundation, the project includes an annual Indigenous Literacy Day on September 3.

Last year’s goal of $100k, was exceeded when $250k was raised through events, a reading challenge and the generous contribution by participating booksellers nationally that donated a percentage of their takings on the day.

In 2008, the project has a new lease of life with the introduction of Therese Rein as the ILP Patron. Also known as the wife of our Prime Minister, Therese (I can call her that because we met at the launch and so now we’re sistas in the cause!) brings to the project not only her name and standing in the Australian community, but also a real desire to improve the literacy of our children. In her speech at the media launch held at Allen and Unwin in Sydney, she said the project offered an opportunity for all Australians to get involved in a simple and effective community activity.

Also part of the project this year are Author Ambassadors. These include yours truly, the Miles Franklin Award winning author of Carpentaria, Alexis Wright, multi-award winning author of Swallow the Air, Tara June Winch, the owner of every bum joke on the planet Andy Griffiths, Australia’s patriarch or literature David Malouf and Geraldine Brookes.

There is also a newly designed Reader’s Quest designed to assist schools in participating in the project. The Reader’s Quest involves reading at least seven books from the specially prepared Readers Quest booklists, recording each book you read, and then receiving a Reader’s Quest certificate.

As for me, having just returned from the NT myself as part of a role modelling tour, I can see so many ways to engage our young people in books. One of the key ways is for us as adults to be “Reading Heroes” for our young people. We need to read to our kids, we need to be seen to be reading alone and enjoying it, we need to instil in our young people that books and reading should be part of our every day lives and routines. And at least in the cities, we need to be exploiting our libraries for everything they can do to engage, educate and entertain our kids through books.

What you can do for the project: Members of the general public can participate in this important project by buying a book at one of the 400 participating bookshops. So, check and see if your local bookshop is part of the ILP and then go out and buy lots of books on September 3!!!

All of the funds raised will go directly to the Fred Hollows Foundation to buy books and literacy resources for Indigenous communities.

For more information about the Indigenous Literacy Project, please contact Karen Williams on (02) 9388 0087 or go to: www.worldwithoutbooks.org

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