Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Indigenous Literacy Project Launch

I feel like the social butterfly, but this launch was for a very special reason. Yes, there was the chance to mingle with the leading lights of Sydney bookselling, and say hello to the heads of various publishing houses, and even see David Malouf across the room, but we were all there for a cause very dear to the book community's collective heart - the Indigenous Literacy Project.

Run in conjunction with the Fred Hollows Foundation, this project started with one bookseller asking why it was that indigenous children had a lower literacy rate than others in our country, and what could be done about it. Suzie Wilson of Riverbend Books in Brisbane started a reader's challenge with the local schools in her area and raised a nice little sum. The next year it extended to schools within the state, and more funds were raised. The money was used to purchase books and resources for remote communities in the Northern Territory, with the assistance of the Fred Hollows mob. With the support of people like Jeff MacMullen and Ian Thorpe, the challenge extended nationwide, and to adults as well as children. Last year in an effort to streamline the whole process, bookshops, publishers and distributors were asked to donate a percentage of their takings on a particular day. The support was overwhelming - close to a quarter of a million dollars was raised, and more communities were able to be helped. This year Indigenous Literacy Day will be held on the 3rd September, when the book community will once again donate a percentage of their takings; but this year the Reader's Quest will be reinstated. I was privileged to be asked to help compiling the children's lists, so of course I am not at all impartial, but I do think it is a wonderful collection of titles to choose from!

This is not a trickle down project, the people of the communities are fully involved and consulted, and without their support, all the well-meaningness of Australians on the edge of our continent would be negated. You and I know how essential it is to be able to read, and in the (paraphrased) words of the patron, Therese Rein, in her speech to launch ILP, reading gives you somewhere else to go, as well as the ability to make choices. All children should be given this opportunity, and this is one way we can make sure the opportunity is extended.

Have a look at the website Get involved in whatever way you can. Mark 3-9-08 in your diary (it's the Wednesday before Father's Day). We live in a nation that can collectively say sorry, but individually, we can do something positive to show our support. It isn't that hard! Lindy

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