Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

“Nearly half the population struggles without the literacy skills to meet the most basic demands of everyday life and work. There are 46% of Australians who can’t read newspapers; follow a recipe; make sense of timetables, or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.”

This sobering quote comes from the website devoted to the 2012 National Year of Reading officially launched on February 14. The website is here

I am proud to be a Friend of the National Year of Reading and will do as much as I can to promote all forms of reading for everybody including promoting the cause of reading at workshops, during my tenure as Established Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writing Centre in Perth, and in regional NSW through our library network and local writing groups.

But why a Year of Reading? Why not a Year of Writing?

Unless we have readers, writers have no one to write for. I believe writing – like all communication – needs a sender and a receiver. Until the writing (the message) is received/read by a reader, the transaction isn’t complete. The reader doesn’t have to receive the message exactly as the writer sends it. They are free to add their own interpretation to the words. For me, that makes the process much richer. But to have the words disappearing into the ether like a shout echoing down an empty valley, would feel like my job is only half done.

Among the goals which the National Year of Reading has identified are three key ones:

  • For all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and a catalyst for well-being;
  • To promote a reading culture in every home; and
  • To establish an aspirational goal for families, of parents and caregivers sharing books with their children every day

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where reading was taken for granted. Reading was never seen as idle or wasted time. It was our entertainment. It was also education but we didn’t know that then. Reading was just fun.  Among my earliest memories are my father reading to my older sister and me in our cots, his inventive voices bringing the stories to life. Later when we moved to Australia, to a town without television (I know, shock! horror!) he read aloud the story of Sam Small, the Flying Yorkshireman, in the dialect of his youth. Unless you’re born to it, Yorkshire dialect is almost incomprehensible on paper. Read aloud it made perfect sense. Many years later in an astonishing coincidence my writer friend, Susan Sackett, told me that her boss, Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek universe, was adapting The Flying Yorkshireman as a film script. I wish I’d kept Susan’s letters from that time because this detail is never mentioned in his official biographies.

Reading has many different appeals.

So we grew up with a reading culture and learned a life skill that added to our well-being. Two of the boxes ticked. If I can help to pass that joy along to families and caregivers who haven’t grown up with reading as an everyday activity, I’ll help tick the third box, and be a true friend of the National Year of Reading.

Did you grow up in a reading culture? What can you do to share that pleasure among your circle? How can you help spread the message of the National Year of Reading 2012?


on Twitter @valerieparv

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