Ever since I was tiny my life has been full of books. Books my parents and extended family bought for me for birthdays or just because they thought I would like them. Books passed down to me by my siblings. Books borrowed from the local library or the one at school.
They provided not just the basic stepping stones to literacy but also magical “other” worlds into which I could disappear and enjoy. It’s a love I never lost and my house is always full of the books I have read and can’t bear to part with and the ever-growing pile of books that I want to read.
It is impossible to imagine not having books easily accessible. Or not having one book, particularly a new book, that is for me alone.
Sadly, in some indigenous communities in Australia, particularly the more remote ones, books are a scarce commodity. And, although there are some innovative early learning and literacy programs in place, it is still not unusual for children to lag behind the national average when it comes to literacy skills.
In the Northern Territory remote communities, for example, only one in five children can read at an accepted level of competency. In some areas more than half the children speak english as their second language.
But progress is being made. Where communities are given the tools to tackle literacy the children are not only performing at an equal level with non-indigenous children, they are revelling in the pleasure of books and often sharing that joy with their whole family.
Tomorrow is Indigenous Literacy Day which focuses on raising money to maintain and expand literacy programs particularly in the more remote Indigenous communities.
Indigenous Literacy Day is organised by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation which is supported by all the major publishers and bookshops. It organises a wide variety of events, including a book swap, all around Australia, in an effort to raise funds.
Hopefully, other literacy programs will benefit from the spotlight which Indigenous Literacy Day throws on the issue. Like the Fountain for youth’s Literacy Backpack Program a flexible program that works with 21 remote communities like the one at Bulla, in the Northern Territory, whose children are pictured at the start of this item with their backpacks full of books.
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is trying to raise $600,000 this year. If you want to help, just log on at their website www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au. Or check out the Fountain for youth site at www.ianthorpes-fountainforyouth.com and find out how you can sponsor a backpack.