A Tale of Two Literacy Rates…

…How your love of second hand books can help to raise indigenous literacy rates in remote Australia.

Old Books

I love old books. I love to read them, to smell them, to run my hands along their spines. It’s a serious problem that has reached the point where I am not really allowed in second-hand bookstores unsupervised anymore. I just buy too much.

But you know what I really don’t love?

The knowledge that in this country there are many people who may never understand the joy of starting a new book; or returning to a beloved classic like a comfy pair of slippers.

In Australia this is most likely for indigenous children living in remote areas. Across the nation only 32.5% of Year 7 indigenous children living in very remote areas were measured at or above the national minimum standard for reading in 2013 as compared with 92.7% of non-indigenous children in the same areas. This was even worse in the NT were only 13.3% of Year 7 indigenous children living in very remote areas and only 44.9% living in remote areas achieved the national minimum standard. This is compared with non-indigenous scores of 97.5% and 93.6% respectively.

I think of the beautiful stories, the funny stories, the powerful inspirations that I would have missed out on had I not grown up with books. What a different person I might be.

Our indigenous children are being robbed of their potential by being robbed of their literacy, and I can barely believe that in Australia today this is still such a big issue!! It’s horrifying.


So how can you help out and score some lovely old books for your own library?

Hold a book swap. Invite some of your favourite bibliophiles (lovers of books) around and swap books with them, dropping a small donation into a jar for every swap. Sending these donations to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) will assist them to:

raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous children living in remote and isolated regions. This is done through the delivery of books and literacy resources, publishing and visits out to remote communities.’ – http://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/about

For more information on how to hold an ILF book swap click here.

Got no books you are willing to part with? Don’t panic. Just head down to your local op-shop. The advent of Kindle has meant that an overwhelming number of excellent titles have ended up on op-shop shelves for as little as $2 or $3. Two charities, one very cheap stone.

Got kids? Get together with a group of other parents and swap the books your babies are growing out of for something a little more challenging.

Got no time to organise a book swap? I can totally sympathise with that. But if you still want to help you can donate to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation here.

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