Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bowen Library launch party for the National Year of Reading

Yesterday was the best Valentine’s Day I think I’ve ever had. I spent it with 70 avid readers, including the Mayor of Randwick Cr Scott Nash, actor Bill Conn and a HUGE heart-shaped cake (pictured with me below). We all met at Bowen Library Maroubra to celebrate the launch of the National Year of Reading 2012, Library Lovers Day and to hear from the fabulous Cassie Mercer (pictured above) about the magazine Inside History! 

As a National Ambassador of the NYR12, I was extremely thrilled to be there to celebrate the launch of a year that is really about working towards making us all a nation of readers. It’s also about assisting our children in learning to read and then becoming so keen to read that they seek out and find new sources of inspiration for themselves.

The NYR12 is about supporting reading initiatives and helping people discover and rediscover the magic of books, in libraries, in classrooms, in homes, on the bus or at the place where I do a lot of reading, the beach.

Up front, and as someone who writes and reads across genres and mediums, it’s important for me to say that it doesn’t matter what you read – romance novels, kids books, cook books, comics, these are all as relevant as a classic novel. And let’s not forget poetry, graphic novels, newspapers and song lyrics. These are all forms of stories told different ways and often for different audiences.

And of course with today’s technology, a story can be in any format – books, e-books, novellas, magazines or even screen games. 

I am proud to be a National Ambassador for the Year of Reading and I have to say I love Bowen Library, where I spent many hours writing a complete first draft of my novel Avoiding Mr Right. I hadn’t tried working in a library for sometime before that and was quite surprised by the sense of community Bowen had. Indeed, I recall almost crying because it was a space that now had rather noisy enthusiastic students working on projects together, and people being tutored in different languages. I realised quickly back in 2007, that libraries had changed from the days when librarians shoosh-ed people all the time. I’m glad this library, as are many around Australia, remains a place that engages its members in many ways.

Apropos of that, according to the ABS site, which I checked just yesterday, libraries are in the top three most visited cultural venues in Australia. After zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens. See how important they are in our lives!

With Paula Grunseit, Collection Development Librarian and Project Leader NYR 2012

Reading is about more than books though. Being literate gets me through each day. I read the news articles on-line to see what’s happening locally and around the world. I read emails to advise me about my work. I read letters and postcards from friends and family in faraway places so I can be connected to their lives. I read street signs and directions to get where I need to go. I read recipes now, because at the age of 43 I’ve decided to learn how to cook.

And of course, I read books. I read novels to escape to countries that entertain and enrich me. I read memoirs and autobiographies to learn about the lives of great role models who inspire me. I read history books to understand why and how we became the nation we are. I read poetry to learn about how others can describe places and human experiences in ways that I never could.

My whole day is about reading! And the ability to read is one of the reasons I’m a passionate about being an Ambassador for the for Year of Reading, but also an Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Indigenous Literacy Day, held on Sept 5 this year. I’m sure many will be as shocked as I was to learn that by the age of 15, more than one-third of Australia’s Indigenous students 'do not have the adequate skills and knowledge in reading literacy to meet real-life challenges and may well be disadvantaged in their lives beyond school'. (PISA cited in Bortoli and Cresswell, 2004, page 11). And we all know that the development of English literacy skills is important for the life opportunities of Indigenous children and youth. Literacy 'provides them with the necessary skills to interact within mainstream society and avail themselves of the broadest range of civic, social, educational and employment possibilities'. (Mellor and Corrigan, 2004)

I am also a Books in Homes Ambassador because, I have, over my lifetime, taken for granted the ability to read. I have taken for granted that there has always been a local library full of books that I can borrow for free. I have taken for granted that every school I went to had a library filled with books. But still today there are many communities without these resources that we all enjoy, and to some degree probably still take for granted.

And this is why I work to raise awareness and funds to make a difference to the large numbers of Indigenous kids, Australian kids, who can’t read. So they can learn about the world through books and they can then dream about what is possible for them, for their futures.

So, in celebrating this wonderful initiative which is the National Year of Reading, I ask you to stop and imagine what it might be like not to have books in your world at all. How different would your world be? If you can see how limited your life experience would be, then consider that’s what it’s like for many others today, and pop over to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation website, and see how you might be part of the process of change.

Finally, I admit that I am a slow reader… but in 2012, as part of the National Year of Reading, I have set myself a challenge:  to read 52 books in 52 weeks. Here’s five I’ve read already…and I highly recommend them. You should be able to find them at your library. [Pic above is of Christine Howard Supervisor, Events and Marketing, Randwick Library]

My first group of NYR12 books... more to come in the weeks to come...

  1. Nicole Watson’s The Boundary 
  2. Lisa Heidke’s Stella Makes Good 
  3. Monty Pryor’s Njunjul the Sun 
  4. Lorna Little’s The Mark of the Wagarl 
  5. A Handful of Sand: words to the frontline (Southerly: Vol 71. No. 2, 2011)
I’d love to hear your recommendations also.

Happy reading everyone!


Inside History magazine said...

What a fabulous day it was! Loved meeting you and the equally wonderful Bill Conn. We're ready for a big year of reading! xx

Tania McCartney said...

I love your comment - 'it doesn’t matter what you read' - have just listened to Jackie French say exactly the same thing. So wonderful you had the best St V's day ever - me, too - I had three of my major crushes in one room - William McInnes, Peter Garrett and NYR12. x