If we were in USA, we’d be celebrating “Get CaughtReading” month.
But we’re not. Reading isn’t on many people’s radar at the moment. In 2012 we had the National Year of Reading quietly ongoing with the theme of Love2Read, but without funding it has lost momentum. Once upon a time, until the Federal government withdrew funding, there was the National Book Council (now defunct except in Tasmania where it has held 10 author talks each year since 1982). Then there were a number of reading campaigns, the best known being Get Reading which used to run in August/September. Until the funds ran out. Now there’s Better Reading but it doesn’t have funds to take authors and illustrators into remote and rural areas.
For young children and parents, there is the Little Big Book Club. It celebrated its 10th birthday recently. And most importantly, there’s the Children Book Council of Australia which for 70 years has ”engaged the community with literature for young Australians”. Using donations of money and more importantly, thousands of hours/years of dedicated volunteer time, CBCA continues to present its annual “awards to books of literary merit, for outstanding contribution to Australian children's literature”.
Sometimes, this reliance on donations saddens me and I wonder if it would be possible to become a “reading terrorist/extortionist” so I was intrigued to read Gabrielle Williams’ new novel, The Guy, The Girl, the Artist and his Ex (Allen & Unwin). It’s based on an actual event – the Australian Cultural Terrorists who stole Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’ and held it for ransom demanding an increase in government funding for artists. In typical Williams’ fashion, we have quirky/ flawed characters, a page-turning pace and deft touches of humour. Well worth reading even if we don’t become “reading terrorists”... and for a germ of an idea – what can you do to trumpet the importance of reading?
Nella Pickup, Reader
Editor's note: If you know of any other current campaigns or programs that promote and celebrate children's literature post a comment here on or our Facebook page.