My kids didn’t want to read and I couldn’t believe it.
They’ve always loved being read to but when it came down to learning the actual mechanics of English, they both resolutely dug in their heels.
The thing is, I’ve completely forgotten how hard those early steps towards literacy were for me. What I do remember is Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing being a complete revelation.
It reminds me of when bilingual friends describe the first time they dream in another language; when the building blocks of letters and grammar finally disappear and understanding takes their place. The film Arrival beautifully portrays this phenomenon.
Over the last year, I’ve watched the pieces fall into place for my eldest.
Watching him leaving the library last week with his nose in a book, completely oblivious to the world around him, I couldn’t be prouder.
Getting there took effort but we’re lucky. We live in Sydney’s Inner West with two well stocked libraries close by and my children attend a great public school with dedicated teachers and literacy programs to help.
Literacy opens doors
‘Beyond its conventional concept as a set of reading, writing and counting skills, literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.’ United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation
Literacy enables self-expression, helps individuals to access new ideas, take advantage of education and employment opportunities and essentially to participate fully in society.
There are some wonderful organisations devoted to getting books into the hands of the next generation of great readers. Here are just a few.
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s vision is ‘equity for opportunity in remote communities across Australia, by lifting literacy levels and instilling a lifelong love of reading.’
Their three core programs include:
- Book Supply – working with over 30 publishers to deliver more than 200,000 new books to over 250 communities nationally.
- Book Buzz – introducing developmentally appropriate books and literacy resources to Indigenous children under five in remote communities.
- Community Literacy Projects – publishing books written by people in remote communities, some reflecting traditional legends and stories.
Raising Children Network
The Australian parenting website Raising Children Network supplies literacy resources and information for families, communities and professionals, including the Let’s Read early literacy initiative that promotes reading with children from birth to five years.
For over 45 years Scholastic has partnered with Australian schools.
Our primary school hosted a Scholastic Book Fair last month and what struck me was the children’s genuine delight at seeing the books. Twice a term Book Club catalogues are available from which parents and teachers can order resources and Scholastic also supports libraries in children’s hospitals through their Book Bunker program.
Australian Library and Information Association
Libraries are a wonderful community resource to be enjoyed, explored and protected, so make sure you visit your local!
The Australian Library and Information Association runs the National Simultaneous Storytime. This involves an Australian picture book being read simultaneously in libraries, schools, pre-schools, childcare centres, family homes, bookshops and many other places around the country.
Next year’s event will be held at 11am on Wednesday, 23 May 2018.
ALIA also leads the Freedom of Access to Information and Resources (FAIR) which campaigns ‘for a fair, open, democratic society where information belongs to everyone.’
NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge
The challenge, which involves reading 30 books between Monday, 6 March and Friday, 25 August, aims to encourage a love of reading in students and to enable them to experience quality literature.
The Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC) is available for all NSW students in Kindergarten to Year 9, in government, independent, Catholic and home schools.
The Australian Literacy Educator’s Association
‘Access by all learners to strong, effective, and lifelong literacy education is a key feature of a society committed to equity.’ ALEA Declaration, Literacy in 21st Century Australia
ALEA is a professional association dedicated to literacy. Since 1984 they have presented the gift of a book to as many new babies as possible, born in Australia on International Literacy Day, 8 September.
They also provide resources through the My Read site which supports students who are struggling with literacy during the middle school years (years 4-9).
The Children’s Book Council
Established in 1945, the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) is a not-for-profit, volunteer run organisation which aims to engage the community with literature for young Australians.
The CBCA presents annual awards to books of literary merit, for outstanding contribution to Australian children’s literature and runs the ever fun Book Week from 18 – 25 August 2017. The theme this year is ‘escape to everywhere’.
Parents of primary school children, chances are they’ll be a parade at school that week. Consider yourselves warned:-)