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This year is the National Year of Reading. Did you know that 48% of Australians can’t read newspapers, follow a recipe, make sense of timetables or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle, because they lack the literacy skills to do so? Not being able to read has a profound effect on people’s lives, as it limits their life chances and so can have serious consequences for their overall quality of life. It affects the way individuals feel about themselves and their abilities and makes it virtually impossible for them to be properly educated and thus be capable of rising to a better job.
The National Year of Reading 2012 is about encouraging children to read and encouraging keen readers to find new sources of information. It’s about helping people discover and rediscover the magic of books. Most of all it’s about Australia becoming a nation of readers. Being able to read well and write well is more than an enhancement of life in our developed and modern world.
That wonderful provider of insightful comment, “Anonymous”, is credited with saying, “There are those who read to remember and those who read to forget”. This was never so true than in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake, when children experienced tremendous trauma both physically and emotionally. Many children lost their homes, members of their families and their basic security; many were so traumatised they could not sleep at night.
A month or so after this incomprehensible disaster, volunteers began a “Read to Children” programme, which consisted of a person reading to a small group of children for one hour per day. “The purpose of the programme was to engage the children’ s imaginations by bringing them into stories and showing them the way that reading can transport one’s mind, spirit and heart and so bring some peace even in the midst of a tent city.” Melinda Miles Last year marked the 400th anniversary of the translation of the Bible into English. In 1620 the Mayflower set out from Plymouth, England, with the Plymouth Pilgrims and the King James Bible on board bound for the Americas. They set up a small colony and called it Plymouth in what is now the State of Massachusetts. The education system that ensued over the years was provided by the churches and inevitably it was Bible-led. By 1700, Richard Middleton, a historian of Colonial America, tells us that about 70% of men and 45% of women could read and write. When in 1850 Massachusetts became the first State to introduce mandatory education, literacy levels were at 98% in that State!
Walt Disney once said, “There’ s more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island”. This type of treasure, parents are quite capable of providing for their children. When parents read aloud to children, especially from a book with no pictures, children have to use their minds to picture what is happening in the story. W ell-written stories challenge children to go beyond their own experiences and put themselves into someone else’s place. A child can listen to a captivating story for a long time and this practice increases their ability to pay attention and focus on an activity.
Reading aloud to children gives parents a chance to choose timeless, appealing stories that will grab a child’ s interest and attention. And of course there’ s nothing so influential as “parallel reading” which is when parents and children read independently at the same time; this allows parents to demonstrate their love and respect for reading. In this, an Olympic Year, how appropriate is it that the theme for Children’s Book Week is: “Champions Read”!
Want to know more? Check out the LARC’s KnowledgeNET page or come in and visit the LARC. There are a number of exciting reading initiatives and events to help spread the reading bug. Come and be apart of it.