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National Year of Reading starts here

2012 will see a whole heap of amazing, fun, reading activities taking place around Australia and online, so that people of all ages and backgrounds can discover (or rediscover) the joy of reading.

If your parents read to you when you were very young, or if you learnt to read at an early age, went to a school where reading for pleasure was encouraged and you kept reading as a young adult, then the word on the page (or the screen) will be part of your DNA.

But for 46% of the population, that's not the case.

Nearly half of Australians struggle to meet the most basic reading demands of everyday life and work. According to the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2006, the results of which can be viewed at www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4228.0, 46% of Australians cannot read a newspaper, follow a recipe, make sense of a timetable, or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.

Wouldn't it be great to have something that focused everyone's attention on reading? Something that galvanised parents, teachers and students into action; something that showcased the really important role that libraries play in the school community? Well, here it is: The National Year of Reading 2012.

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This idea was first discussed at the Australian Library and Information Association Public Libraries Summit in Canberra, way back in 2009. Since then it has expanded to include authors, publishers, teachers, teacher librarians, book retailers, media organisations, government and corporate partners.

Ambassadors and partners

All kinds of household names will be active in the National Year of Reading campaign - notably the ABC, Dymocks, Madman Entertainment, Scholastic and The Walt Disney Company – and in addition to Jennifer Byrne, William McInnes and Boori Monty Pryor, ambassadors and patrons will include Anita Heiss, Bryce Courtenay, Andy Griffiths, Morris Gleitzman, Susanne Gervay, Anh Do, Ted Egan, Robyn Archer, Anna Goldsworthy, Steve Parish and the Melbourne Football Club.

Authors Hazel Edwards, William McInnes and Alison Lester at Bialik College, Hawthorn, Victoria, for the soft launch of the National Year of Reading in September 2011

Authors Hazel Edwards, William McInnes and Alison Lester at Bialik College, Hawthorn,
Victoria, for the soft launch of the National Year of Reading in September 2011

More than 200 writers, publishers and organisations involved in reading and literacy are partnered with the National Year of Reading - organisations such as the Centenary of Canberra, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, the Pyjama Foundation, Speech Pathology Australia, Student Edge, Vision Australia and Writing Australia.

Funding has come from the Australian Government, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Copyright Agency Ltd, the Sidney Myer Fund and Australian libraries.

Our Story

The first public outing for the National Year of Reading was on 1 November 2011, when voting opened for the book that readers think should represent their state or territory in the National Year of Reading 'Our Story' collection.

Margaret Allen, chair of the National Year of Reading founders and State Librarian of WA, explains:
"For 2012, we're creating a collection of books which, read together, describe the Australian experience. We all know how very different it is if you're living in the city or in a remote community, in the Northern Territory or New South Wales. We're hoping that thousands of readers will take a journey around Australia through the pages of these eight books and come out of it with an even greater depth of understanding about what it means to be Australian."

Voting closed on 6 January 2012. The list of eight winning titles will be announced on 14 February, along with the start of Australia’s biggest book group. After that, existing book groups, new groups and individual readers will be able to go online and register as a member of Our Story, joining the discussion about the chosen books.

February launch

The National Year of Reading will officially kick off on 14 February 2012 with a launch at the National Library of Australia, Canberra. The launch will be hosted by The First Tuesday Book Club's Jennifer Byrne, much loved actor and author William McInnes, and award-winning children's author Boori Monty Pryor. Events will also be held at locations around the country, including State Libraries, school libraries, public libraries, book stores and community venues.

The Reading Hour

A highlight of the campaign will be The Reading Hour, to be held on 25 August 2012. Based on Earth Hour, this event will encourage families to not only to join together for a reading session on that day but also to continue reading together for an hour or so a week - whether that's 20 minutes three times a week or 10 minutes nearly every day.

Children and young people

Another initiative for children and young people is based on Alison Lester's much-loved book Are We There Yet?This book will be a gift for teacher-librarians in primary schools and, for secondary schools, the theme of travel and experiencing different places around Australia has a great deal of potential.

Alison has said, "I am absolutely stoked that Are We There Yet? has been chosen. It is a book that celebrates Australia and hopefully it will help get the country reading."

Alison Lester reads <em>Are we there yet?</em> at the soft launch of the National Year of Reading

Alison Lester reads Are we there yet? at the soft launch of the National Year of Reading

For teenage students, ‘Read This’, an online peer-to-peer book recommendation project, will provide the opportunity to make a book trailer for a favourite title and enter it in a competition.

The National Year of Reading team is also talking to other literacy promoters, including MS Readathon, Scholastic, and the organisers of the Premiers’ Reading Challenges, in order to create opportunities for teachers and teacher-librarians to make a noise without imposing a great deal of extra work.

UK experience

The Australian National Year of Reading is based on a successful campaign in the UK in 2008, which saw:

• 6,000 National Year of Reading events registered on the website

• 2.3 million new public library members

• 12% more children from lower socio-economic groups becoming library members and a 33% increase in parents from these groups saying that they read with their children every day (20% compared with 15% previously)

• 23,000 more boys taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge.

The aim is to achieve a comparable level of activity and equally positive outcomes for Australia in 2012.

For more information about the National Year of Reading and much more detail about each of the projects, visit the website www.love2read.org.au.

Sue McKerracher

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Director, The Library Agency