Plant the seeds of literacy

About this time last year, I shared my excitement when Jackie French was recognised for her “long and distinguished career as a beloved children’s author” as Senior Australian of the Year. At the time she was halfway through her two-year role as Australian’s Children’s Laureate with the task of promoting the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians.

If-you-want-intelligent children

Later in the year, in a series of posts celebrating Australian picture books, I shared more of Jackie’s work.

jackie french's books

Now the roles of Children’s Laureate and Senior Australian of the Year have been passed to others. Jackie has obviously been asked what she is now going to do with all her “free” time. In her newsletter she says, “if one more person says ‘now you can relax’ if (sic) will bite them like a wombat, the snappish kind” because it means that work is finished, which it isn’t. I feel exactly the same way when people ask me about my retirement, though I fear Jackie and I work at a very different pace and the occupation of my time may seem like retirement in comparison to hers.

While an author may not have received the top recognition as Australian of the Year 2016, three advocates of children’s literature each became a Member of the Order of Australia:

Jackie French for significant service to literature as an author of children’s books, and as an advocate for improved youth literacy’.

Ann James for ‘significant service to children’s literature as an author and illustrator and through advocacy roles with literacy and professional bodies’.

Ann Haddon for significant services to children’s literature, as a fundraiser and supporter of Indigenous literacy, and to professional organisations’.

It is wonderful to see the recognition given to authors, and to the importance of reading.

lucy_goosey_cover_lowres

One of my favourite books, illustrated by Ann James is Lucy Goosey. It is a beautiful story, written by Margaret Wild, about the love between mother and child. I can’t read it all the way through without crying. But in a good way. It is very touching.

Ann talks about illustrating the story here:

I’m also pleased to say that I have an original Ann James, done for Bec at a literary festival many years ago, hanging on my wall.

Ann James

In her Senior Australian of the Year Valedictory Speech, Jackie French says,

“You never know what seeds you plant will grow; if they will keep growing; who will take them and tend them. But there is one thing I have learned in my 62 years: keep planting seeds.

Jackie French - keep planting seeds

 Never think: I am 62 and still have not achieved world peace, universal tolerance and justice, or even an Australia where every single child is given the chance to learn to read.

Change is never fast enough for any person of goodwill.

A rain drop is just a rain drop. But together we are a flood.  Together we have changed the world.

Jackie french - raindrops

She concludes her speech with these words:

“Let us give our children role models who do not, will not despair, no matter how long it takes to change the world. And let us never surrender, no matter how tired we are, or how long it takes. Because with these weapons we shape the future of our planet.”

I like her words of hope. She is a meliorist. But even more than that, she is an active meliorist. She puts her words into action. She may no longer carry the title of Children’s Laureate or Australian of the Year, but her advocacy doesn’t stop.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

34 thoughts on “Plant the seeds of literacy

  1. Pingback: Plant the seeds of literacy | Dayne Sislen Children's Book Illustration

  2. Sacha Black

    Meliorism is an interesting thing. Like altruism in my eyes. Never sure it really exists but I want it too. I think, if I’m not mistaken I am a meliorist albeit a skeptical one. But you’re right about one thing. Books and education are certainly the way forward.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hmm. Interesting your uncertainty about the existence of either meliorism or altruism. You write of dystopian futures so that takes you a little away from meliorism, though I get the sense that your futures may have good endings, so that takes you more towards it. 🙂

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  3. roweeee

    Thanks so much, Norah for updating me on Jackie French. I think I’ve mentioned before that I did a workshop with her at the Sydney Writers; Festival a few years ago. She’s so lovely.
    talking about children’s literacy, I’d like to see more support for kids with reading difficulties like dyslexia. You learn so much through books and to be denied access to all of that through disability, is being robbed. It seems to be quite common.
    I really appreciate your passion for children’s literature and literacy.It keeps mine alive.
    xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      You have mentioned the workshop with Jackie before. I am soooo jealous!
      We definitely need more support for making literacy available to everyone. I can’t imagine my life if I were unable to read. How much of the world would be lost to me!
      Thanks for your kind words. I’m pleased I’m nurturing your passion for children’s literature. 🙂

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  4. Charli Mills

    Just like you may not carry the title of teacher yet you are still educating! She’s an an active meliorist. Fantastic post and nod to both her work and the work each of us can do in the humble acts of planting seeds.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Charli. Perhaps we need to let those seeds grow in the gardens as well as in the wild places, sowing, tending and reaping where ever we go.

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  5. jennypellett

    It’s so, so important for children to be read to. I am often saddened by children who come to us aged 11 having never had the delight of story time with a parent or guardian. I think it’s a form of neglect. The best family times I remember are of me reading to my son with the Hubs listening in. We always had a ‘holiday’ book too – anticipated with much excitement. This family ritual went on until Son was quite old (certainly a young teen). He went on to research and write his own book by the time he was 25. I rest my case…

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    1. Norah Post author

      It is difficult to acknowledge that there are children of 11 who have never shared a book with a parent or guardian. This is where the change needs to be. Parents need to understand the importance of talking with their children and reading to them. As well as the benefit it gives to the child’s intellectual growth and general education, it also does much to create a positive parent-child bond. And it is so incredibly pleasurable. I can’t imagine missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures: sharing books with young children. However, for parents who have seen no value in education, who perhaps failed to thrive at school themselves and found no pleasure in reading or perhaps didn’t learn to read at all, it is a possibility alien to their being. This is where the education needs to start.I have lots of ideas of how this can be worked towards. I just have to convince others of the importance, not only to individual families, but to society as a whole.
      I’m impressed by your son’s achievements. You sound like a very proud mum. And justifiably so.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Jenny. I’m looking forward to future discussions. 🙂

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  6. Gulara

    As a mum of two, I know for fact that children do as they see not as we tell them to. Role modelling is so important – they learn so much from how we interact with each other, care for our own selves, set boundaries…. And doing what we preach to our own children is one of the ways in which we can change the world. Thank you for this post, Norah, as always thought-provoking and heartful!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for popping by to read and share your thoughts, Gulara. Children are learning from us all the time, aren’t they? It’s gets a bit scary at times. But certainly practising what we preach is the best way of changing the world. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post.

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  7. Bec

    What a lovely post… But how quickly the year has passed! I am pleased we have such a fantastic new Australian of the Year, and it’s great to see Jackie French and Ann James continuing to be recognised for their great contributions. Just looking at the cover of Lucy Goosey makes me want to cry!!

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  8. TanGental

    I say a big yes to Jackie and the idea of holding the faith in a better world – never let the nay Sayers win the day. Never. Why would we give up on children when they have so much to give themselves?

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  9. prior2001

    Norah! This post has such flow with quotes and your feel – and the subject of children’s literacy is a potent one – but also such a nice feel for Jackie and then your little colorful image/quotes – enjoyed this very much – ❤️📚📚📚

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  10. thecontentedcrafter

    Nice to see these three wonderful Australian women mentioned here Norah. I love your enthusiasm too – it is so contagious! Great quotes! I am so in awe of great lines that trip off the tongue and become words to live by……… Of course you know I agree that children should be told stories, read stories and have books available constantly. Children who see their parents reading will usually become readers themselves. There is a whole other world made available to readers that is available no where else. Yay for readers and reading!! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Yay! Thanks for your comment, Pauline. I second your ‘Yay!’ I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. They are wonderful women, indeed. I know a few of those! 🙂 (But not the ones mentioned personally.) Anyone who works towards making reading and books accessible to all rates highly in my opinion. Thanks for sharing the enthusiasm.

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