The National Year of Reading 2012 is all about creating the future of learning. It is all about accessing and learning words, which is how the world works. It is all about encouraging kids of all ages to love2read. It’s just reached the halfway mark and, on the day of the solstice June 21, in Federation Square at Melbourne, they had a great crowd in attendance for readings, calligraphy and being informed all about books, reading and enlightenment. While all this is all wonderful icing on the cake, it is really down to the serious role and responsibility that current educators, parents and child carers have as they endeavour to infuse in each new generation of children, a love of the written word. How that word is delivered, in a book, on a tablet, iPad, computer or any other innovative and imaginative media is not really up for negotiation as technology rapidly evolves. Surely the main point is that kids, and adults too (big kids), become infused with a love of learning.
Reading should be fun and kids and adults alike, whatever their age, should be both enjoying traditional methods of delivery, while embracing change and reading online. It’s all about helping everyone to absorb the knowledge people all over the world now have at their fingertips. Whether it be through a library at school or in their college or university, or on their desk at home via the internet, more than ever before the playing field of life is being leveled by the rapid dispersion of knowledge. This is a cause worth standing up to be counted for. The build up for The Reading Hour, which will be held on the 25th August, 2012 as one event in this very busy literacy year is now happening. The objective is about encouraging parents, carers, assorted members of a family and friends to share a book with a child for at least 10 minutes every night before bed. Most of our brain development happens early in life, so its good to get them habited. If we do it will at least help them to develop two imperative skills, listening and learning. They need to grow to love and strive to achieve both for the rest of their lives.
Sharing contemporary and traditional stories, as well as reading a great plethora of fave novels and nonsense rhymes, will have them reacting with joy. Whether its via a book or iPad, goodness, just get it done. My three sons always loved our reading time together every night during their formative years. My eldest could often be found reading under the bedclothes by torchlight after lights out. As his brothers grew they often joined him. It certainly infused in them all a great love of learning, that has never really abated, despite them now being all grown up. It has become a skill they are all happy they mastered, as it has not only enriched their personal lives, but also has proved to be a huge bonus in their professional lives.
Reading Aloud to children is the key to literacy. This has been proven over and over again ad nauseum. Why the message doesn’t get through to the majority, as so many government and other website’s seem to report is, for me a complete puzzlement. Surely nothing is more important in life than the time we invest in children, whether it be our own or someone else’s. So what are the extra events happening for the second half of the year?
If you are just getting tuned into this important national activity happening right now all over Australia then hopefully we can help alert you to some fabulous publications out there you should read, provide information so you can find out others that may appeal, as well as talk about some of the events being held, so that, from the second half of this important year, you too can charge up your family and friends to become involved.
From the country town of Goulburn where Kids and Adults are invited to ‘Get Caught Reading’ to Jean Genies, taking place in Public Libraries all over Australia, you can enjoy a story challenge or promote interest in some aspect of history. Currently there are 51 Pages of Events listed on the National Year of Reading website, so there is something out there for everyone.
The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Shortlist shows an enormous diversity of titles and content. The winners will be announced on July 23rd. Some we might expect, others we might not. Most of them are for adults. Gillian Mear’s lovely Foal’s Bread and Anna Funder’s powerful All That I Am for big kids, which won the Miles Franklin award this year, has certainly had a great deal of press, while James Boyce’s already classic 1835 , which is all about the founding of Melbourne and conquest of Australia, is sure to have already joined the list of many school curriculums along with Immigration Nation: the Secret History of Us and Charles Massy’s Breaking the Sheep’s Back, the true story of the decline and fall of the Australian wool empire. This is a tale my own family is part of the histoy of and shockingly involved government cover up on a huge scale. It is a terrible tale of betrayal that still resonates today.
This year the entries for this award has attracted the highest number of entries since its inception. They celebrate an important aspect of both Australia’s national cultural and intellectual life. It is no use governments supporting education without supporting the tools that will bring it about. There are a few kids books in there, all of which have a great deal of merit. There is a plethora of fabulous books for children in this day and age and if you are unsure you can always seek advice from your local bookstore, or online at the place where I used to buy all my own children’s books The Children’s Bookshop, the oldest specialist children’s bookshop in NSW Australia. The people involved there are all trained educators.
Like so many other people I was disappointed with the State Government in Queensland’s decision to axe their awards, it did not seem to make any sense or let alone, show what I believed its new premier had, a lot of commonsense. Surely the saving could have been made elsewhere, or the money supplied by major industry to ensure that it continued. Governments have a powerful role to play in helping keep the corporate conscience and moral standards in check by contributing to such a cause. But that is another debate to have for an other day.
As far as events go in the National Year of Reading there is such a multitude to choose from its hard to know which ones to talk about and, we can only cover a few.
I must say I like the sound of ‘Scrapbooking in the Blue Mountains’ an event that has turned the Blue Mountains City Library upside down. There are free workshops, a traveling exhibition that has evolved from it, as everyone gets involved in ‘scrapping’. What fun. It is also about recording local stories, a subject that should never be overlooked. It appears people have ‘poured their hearts out’ to let them know just how much they love libraries, books and reading. Importantly it has involved the staff and the customers they serve in a one on one dialogue, which must always be valued. I know how they feel, without my local library being so accessible when I was a child, I might not be here today. It was the place where I would go when I needed to steady and sustain myself through a great many troubled times. To say books were a lifesaver for me is an understatement.
In N.S.W. and Victoria CINECLUB the young filmaker’s network is holding literacy projects where students learn how to make a short film, based on a source text. This is valuable as they see the transfer of words from the page, helping them to develop literacy by engagement with a practical activity. Suggested topics included works by such kids icon authors as Roald Dahl and Andy Griffiths as well as being taken from tradition with Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, Charles Dickens’ classic tales and Grimm’s marvellous fairy tales. Surely a very worthwhile creative and cultural activity.
The final event we will highlight is not just a one off, it is ongoing.
Recently the staff and children from Our Lady of Rosary school at Kenmore in Brisbane wore pyjamas to school to highlight the work, and raise funds for The Pyjama Foundation, a social profit organisation that sends ‘angels’ to read aloud to children in foster care.
If ever a sector of society needed this gentle and brilliant initiative, foster kids do. There are 37,000 children in care in Australia and in this demographic researh has proved improving literacy and numeracy skills for these children has a powerful and positive impact.
Statistics are readily available from various State Government Departments of Child Safety and organisations such as Early Childhood Australia or the Talaris Institute in the USA. They document the expansion and strain on regulatory bodies, organisations and people as the world changes rapidly for children, families and the professionals who work with them, so it is up to us individually and collectively to help where we can.
Taking time out to read aloud to children in care is a great way of helping to shape the future. For children less than five, reading aloud prepares them towards enjoying success at school and gaining a positive attitude to life. They have a great capacity for absorbing information at this period in their lives and the greater the opportunities to learn the greater their options will be.
For children over five reading aloud assists them expand their experiences and enjoy being positive about themselves and others. It will also help to keep them on the straight and narrow, as alarming statistics reveal kids in the foster system have it much harder than most and are more likely to end up in correction facilities.
Delivering knowledge with imagination assists all children to discover the world around them. It also inspires their interest and attitude in what it has to offer for their future. It is what this National Year of Reading 2012 is all about.
It’s not too late for libraries and bookshops to register to be active participants in the National Year of Reading. By registering, all you’re doing is telling us that we can count on your support, that there will be branding on display for at least part of the year, and that you will welcome approaches from us telling you about new opportunities as they arise. And there are some great benefits to be had! Registered outlets will hear about promotions, free, downloadable materials, and advance information about national events.‘
So if you know someone who needs to know about this initiative do help them to find out.
Information on an unparalleled scale is now out there, in often bewildering and quite overwhelming quantities. The difficulty for people now, and in the future will be in being able to sort out what is fact, what is fiction, what is history, what is truth and what is right or wrong. We all need an ability to read and research to make the best out of life.
Western democracy was founded on the written word. England’s Magna Carta, America’s Declaration of Independence, Australia’s constitution, all these helped to fule prosperity and bring liberty and freedom spawned by a culture of reading. Words have migrated now from print to pixels. How we read, and write, is changing. Knowing words helps us all make sense of who we are, where we are going and what we want to be.
Reading rocks, so join the movement and be part of the National Year of Reading now. You set a fine example to your children if you read a lot as well.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept, 2012