National Bookshop Day August 2013 – Reading for Love & Life

Eat, Sleep, Read. My family will be among those people celebrating National Bookshop Day, to be held in Australia on August 10th 2013. This joint initiative of The Australian Bookseller’s Association, which represents the book industry in Australia as well as the Australian Publishers Association representing the people involved in the production of books in any medium, is to be applauded.

Bookshops around the country will be giving away free books, hosting events including reading aloud, and there will also be many other activities.

Browsing in bookshops wherever I have found myself when visiting friends, on holidays interstate or overseas has been integral to my life’s journey. From antiques and collectables purchased at Berkelouw in the southern highlands of New South Wales, especially in their ‘rare book’ department, to perhaps the best bookshop in Britain, Hatchards of Piccadilly at London founded in 1797, browsing and buying in bookshops both local and international, collecting and reading books have certainly been a constant and real pleasure for me.

There are many books out there that for years were essential to our understanding of ourselves. Today while the great collection that I amassed over my lifetime, has been considerably reduced to three bookshelves, what I have been left with has been chosen with love, have been received as gifts and cover the expansive range of my interests in design history, the decorative arts, cultural development and biographies.

Like author Jorge Louis Borges, ‘I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library’, one that I will live in for eternity.

Wondrous Wendy telling stories to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys illustration from The Peter Pan Picture Book by Alice B Woodward and Daniel O'Connor London George Bell & Sons 1907 - 250 copies printed on handmade paper with plates mounted

Books continue to give me a constant source for the renewal of my spirit and a place to go and spend a rainy afternoon. There is always something new to discover or to re-visit in their pages.

There is really nothing like the smell of old Morocco leather coverings, the look of hand cut quality paper pages, glorious bindings and gilded edges, marbled end papers, superbly produced illustrations, especially those from the Edwardian age, which were often hand coloured and covered with tissue to protect them.

Reading aloud from a wonderful rare edition of British author J.M. Barrie’s great novel for children Peter Pan to my own children was a special occasion, one they still cherish the memory of as adults. It helped them to gain a sense too, and a reverence for the world of words.

While I applaud the expansion of ebooks and reading online because of my own experiences in handling wonderful books, I must say that to just hold a beautifully produced book in my hands continues to give me great joy and helps me to realize what a labour of love it has been for all those involved in its production.

From the writer to the publisher, from the printer to the illustrator, a real book is all about the passionate pursuit of someone’s imagination, which is as that great 20th century scientist Albert Einstein expounded, ‘more important than knowledge’.

Great ideas, great issues, the classics, the popular, the instructive or the entertaining, the emphasis of books since the advent of the printed age, has always been on learning about the world around us a little better, as well as to gain some understanding about the frailty of being human.

Experts tell us that the physical book is fast becoming antiquated and that its future lies in electronic media as our world shrinks. That is still someway off yet and for most people, like me will happen after I am gone thankfully.

In the meantime from Foster’s Little Bookshop in the beautiful countryside of South Gippsland in Victoria, to the Hill of Content slightly left of city centre near thee top of the city at Melbourne and in beautiful Balmain at Sydney, to the salubrious refined surroundings of Collins Street Melbourne and Kay Craddock’s too divine Antiquarian establishment, or just here at home, you can still find me like a child, still turning pages eagerly.

My love of books was born when I spent every day of my years in upper Primary and High school researching and completing assignments in the Randwick library at Sydney. I would spend the rest of the time after completing my homework discovering the world via books.

I read from those books that were an essential foundation in the literature of western culture, to those that continue to have relevance to our own times. This was extremely enlightening to say the least, especially in the days when there was no one to tell you not to read the books most adults carried home after dark in brown paper bags.

Happy family memories include composing great book lists, an activity that took place prior to each Easter and Christmas every year in our household, where for my family receiving a book was much better than chocolate; although we would all agree it makes for a very good accompaniment.

Books were certainly helpful when enjoying great conversations and they have aided my career

For young people books helps them to learn and gives them an ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute. This involves a continuum of learning that will enable any individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.

As responsible adults we need to help our children build trust, learn about relationships become positive in life, instilling confidence and happy positive memories of their time at school and through learning from books whether physical or ebooks.

Listening to stories from the first months of life helps children understand that gaining knowledge is important and that books are filled with delights, facts, fun and food for thought. If their experience is shared, they will be all the happier.

While scientists do not dispute genetics help determine academic success what has become clear and unarguable from their research is the important role of early language experiences and environment on later school achievement. We learn more in the first four years of life than in the years that follow.

It is now known that the quality, quantity and nature of the interactions we have with our children, contribute to their future learning success and this is something that I understood well from an early age. Language and literacy go hand in hand.

When adults read to children they help build their vocabulary, their memory, their language and general knowledge skills. They also develop their imagination as they gather information about the world around them

During my own children’s formative years, as I encouraged them from birth by propping books in their cradle from the first day at home to help them to grow their own reading skills, must admit I found that easier to do because we lived at beautiful Beecroft in Sydney’s northern districts

We were lucky I suppose because this is where one of the best of all the good retailers in our nearby village shopping centre was The Children’s Bookshop, which opened up in 1971.

This happened when my eldest son was three years of age and a few months after we arrived to live there. Needless to say my three sons spent a great deal of time there and it became their favourite place to visit, helping to encourage and refine their reading interests

On Saturdays and during the holidays reading aloud to children was a favourite pastime of the helpful staff and over the years their love of reading was encouraged and their literacy skills flourished under their wise aegis.

This was important adding to their experiences at home where reading aloud before bed was a nightly and very important occurrence, a habit to get into, much like cleaning your teeth.

J’adore the videos featuring one of Australia’s best loved actors, writers and National Bookshop Day ambassador William McInnes, taking up residence in his local bookshop where he can feed his habit.

He echoes many people’s sentiments perfectly I am sure, about how great books continue to contribute to our quality of life.

Literacy is the ability to speak, listen, read and use written information, as well as to write and draw. It is vitally critical to a child’s success in life and is both socially and culturally constructed. In Australia today we are in a state of constant change.

Parents, carers and significant others taking their children to browse in bookshops on a regular basis, despite changing times still has merit, because it can help them to have a greater outcome.

Children who grow up with a love of reading will gain an advantage in the learning process and form an appreciation for the importance of continually expanding their knowledge throughout their life.

For adults of any age books are a constant source of interest and knowledge, a link to the passionate people of our past who went in pursuit of it, and also a pleasure that can be accessed with ease.

Lending libraries are still out there, providing communities with a wonderful service and linking us all to each other, other cultures and the history of our planet.  It costs virtually nothing to belong and for many people a library provides a happy meeting place, where book clubs these days abound enabling you to meet up with people of similar interests as your own.

What a wonderful service the book provides for us all. Bless those publishers and printers one and all. As a focus in interior decoration they provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere. My life has been spent surrounded by books.

From picture books to poetry, from the classics to all sorts of information books and contemporary fiction, bookshops provide a great service and are a wonderful source for entertainment and knowledge.

National Bookshop Day 10th August 2013 is a day when we can all celebrate the pleasure of books and just how much they can continue to contribute to improving quality of life and our ability to interconnect and communicate well with each other.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2013

Watch the National Bookshop Day Trailer 2013 with William McInnes


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