In honour of
Australian Children’s Book Week, and the Reading Hour at the end of it, I
thought it was time for a much delayed post on why I was so thrilled to be
invited to be a Love2Read Ambassador.
The first was the
Melbourne opening of the National Year of Reading with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
at the State Library. Graeme Base, Andy Griffiths, Alice Pung and I joined
Sherlock Holmes, Thing One and Thing Two, the Hungry Caterpillar and a host of
other kids and families dressed as their favourite characters. What a treat to
be amongst so many people who feel about books the same way I do!
Later in the year I
did a session at a severely disadvantaged school as a role model for the Books
in Homes organisation. The statistics the principal gave me were horrifying, a
result of generational poverty and hopelessness, but the anecdotal examples
were nearly worse: Yr 3-4 girls who, when questioned on their dreams for the
future, say to have a baby when they’re 16 so they can stay home; kids living 5
km from the sea who’ve never been to a beach.
But the school has a new
principal and teachers who are determined to change the outcome for these
children, and reading is one of the tools they’re using. Every child had read
or heard one of my books before I arrived, and most classes had prepared something
based on them. The kids were close to hysteria at meeting me – especially as I
was handing out the gift books provided by the organisation. It was easy to see
how treasured these books would be.
I don’t think I’ve
ever felt quite as strongly that these children not only needed the gift of
loving to read, but that the determination of their teachers was bringing them
to the point of achieving it.
You can see why I felt
so strongly about being a Love2Read ambassador.
And as a corollary –
earlier this year, the St Kilda football club transported the entire school to
the cinema to see Return to Nim’s Island. (There’s no cinema in their town.)
The following week I gave them writing workshops – and I don’t think it’s my
imagination, but they seemed to have made remarkable progress in that time.
It’s not just from reading, of course: the principal has managed to get an
Olympic athlete in for sports training, and musicians for music lessons – (in
fact yesterday I received an invitation for their concert and I’ll do my utmost
to get there).
Reading’s not the only
thing these kids need, nor the only thing that’ll inspire them. But it’s one of
them, and it’s one that I can do something about.
We all can. Celebrate
the Reading Hour on Saturday 24th
with one of the many sessions around
the country, or at home – but most importantly, make a commitment to read to
your child, or grandchild, or visiting child, every day.