Posted in Books & Reading, literacy, Reading, Teaching and Learning

Indigenous Literacy Day 2017, Brisbane Writer’s Festival

My Brisbane Writer’s Festival experience began today with the opportunity to attend the Indigenous Literacy Day:  Book Launch and Book Swap presented by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in the beautiful Angel’s Palace.  This building is designed to be an immersive experience and the artwork on the exterior of this tent was designed by artist Gordon Hookey.


The main focus of the event was to launch the book Two ways strong written by indigenous students from Concordia Lutheran College. The book tells the story of what it is like for a young person from a remote community to have to leave home to attend boarding school.


The launch was officiated by the Foundation’s patron, Hon Quentin Bryce.  Her words were both touching and inspirational.  She began by thanking the indigenous women who have taught her throughout her life what it is to be an Elder.

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Quentin Bryce then went on to discuss how there is something irresistible about a story and that a world without stories is unimaginable.  Yet, in many homes, there are very few, if any, books.  The work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) is to redress this imbalance.  By the end of 2017, sixteen thousand books will have been delivered to indigenous communities by the Foundation.  Importantly, many of these stories have been written by indigenous authors and celebrate indigenous ways of life, culture, languages, and traditions.  Suzy Wilson, the founder of the ILF, went on to say that these books provide opportunities to reading and literacy and this opens doors to possibilities, making children strong.

Following the formalities, guests at the event were invited to participate in a book swap by donating a favourite book and taking a book from the collection for the cost of a gold coin.

Simultaneous Indigenous Literacy Day events were being held at the Sydney Opera House, Foundation Square in Melbourne and the State Library of Western Australia in Perth.

Attending this event on a beautiful Brisbane spring day was a privilege and a wonderful way to begin the Brisbane Writer’s Festival.

One more thing….Something to keep an eye out for is the two board books for babies & toddlers that are being published by the ILF to be released in December.




Posted in Books & Reading, literacy, Read Like a Girl, Reading, Teaching and Learning, YA Literature

Help Girls Read

Help Girls Read

Help girls succeed by igniting a love to read

The importance of reading

Educators and parents alike know that reading literature can be transformative.  Research supports this assertion and validates the importance of story reading to brain development and academic success (Haven, 2007; and Krashen, 2011).

Australian teenage girls’ reading is on the decline

Disturbingly, research conducted last year in Australia found that among Australians aged 14+, “the proportion of men and women reading books has decreased in recent years, most noticeably among women. In 2010, 64.7% of Australian women 14+ read a novel in any given three months, a figure which has since fallen to 60.9%. Similarly, fewer women are reading non-fiction books than they used to, slipping from 39.2% to 34.2% between 2010 and 2015” (Roy Morgan Research, 2016).

Let’s do something about this

As a Teacher-Librarian in a girls’ school, this research is of concern to me and I wanted to do something that would make a difference to the girls in our community. A key strategy for making this difference is to focus on reading and literature promotion.

After collaborating with other passionate colleagues in the teaching and book worlds, the Read Like a Girl movement was established.

Read Like a Girl is a community partnership for the literacy advancement of girls and is a combined endeavour led by Mt Alvernia College and St Rita’s College.  Riverbend Books is a community partner in this project.  This project encapsulates a calendar of reading events aimed at instilling a foundation and love of reading in the college communities and more broadly among girls everywhere.

What we hope to do

We hope that through our calendar of events, we will give the girls in our communities the opportunity to:

  • Attend book events
  • Meet authors
  • Purchase books
  • Participate in conversations about literature, reading, and storytelling
  • Network with other girls, women, and people who value reading and academic success
  • Develop their knowledge of the vast world of books and the opportunities literacy creates

What you can do

You can support this endeavour in practical ways by:

  • Attending our events (starting with the International Women’s Day Breakfast)
  • Spreading our vision by following us on social media (#RLaG) and sharing our advocacy with your own networks
  • Purchasing books for the girls in your life
  • Speaking positively about reading
  • Providing time and space for the girls in your life to read
  • Model reading – visit a bookstore, put your feet up and enjoy a great read



Haven, K. F. (2007). We’ve reached the research results. In Story proof: The science behind the startling power of story (pp. 89-122). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Krashen, S. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Denver: Libraries Unlimited.




Posted in Book Review, Books & Reading, Reading, Teaching and Learning, YA Literature

Book Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CloudwishCloudwish by Fiona Wood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood is a novel about Vân Uoc Phan, the Australian born daughter of vietnamese refugees. Vân Uoc is the ‘scholarship/poor/smart/Asian’ at a prestigious private high school and is determined to remain inconspicuous and do well at her studies. She secretly daydreams about Billy Gardner, a ‘jock’ who is on the first team for rowing and who comes from wealth and privilege. When Billy suddenly starts to pay her a lot of attention, Vân Uoc initially thinks it is a setup and that she will soon be the butt of a practical joke.
Yet, Billy persists and a sweet teenage relationship begins.

This novel, however, is not just a romance, it raises a number of important issues such as social status in Australia, the complex plight of refugees and family relations.

Fiona Woods creates some excellent characters in this novel. The protagonist, Vân Uoc, is smart, yet unsettled about her heritage and has many unanswered questions about her parents’ past. She feels pressure to recompense their sacrifices and the trauma of their boat trip from Vietnam by being the perfect daughter and student. Another terrific character is Vân Uoc’s mother. Suffering post traumatic stress, she slides into an annual bout of depression and has much difficulty expressing her feelings or telling about her past. Vân Uoc wishes she could get her mother to talk and fears that they no longer speak the same language (literally and figuratively). Slowly, some of her mother’s stories and feelings are revealed as she begins to attend a support group, giving the reader much insight into the experiences of refugees.

Cloudwish is a cleverly written novel and I highly recommend it to YA readers.

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Posted in Book Review, Books & Reading, Library collections, Reading, YA Literature

Book Review: The River and the Book

The River And The BookThe River And The Book by Alison Croggon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is told by Simbala. Simbala was raised in a village that has two treasures as named in the title of the story: the river and the book. Both these treasures become threatened by the exploitation of First World developers. For Simbala’s village, livelihood and survival are dependent on the river. It provides, food, irrigation and the means of transport. As foreign corporations colonise the country by financing large scale cotton farming, water levels drop due to irrigation and the quality of the water is compromised by the poisoning effects or insecticide runoff.

The second treasure, the Book, is the oracle of the village, it predicts futures and answers the important questions of the villagers. We are told that “inside the Book was written everything that had been, everything that was and everything that was to come” (p.16). Simbala, like her mother, grandmother and the women in her family before them, is the Keeper of the Book. When a foreign woman, Jane Watson, visits the village, she is warmly welcomed and spends time living in the village learning their way of life and the pattern of their days. Jane Watson, however, violates this trust in a devastating manner when she leaves the village and takes the Book with her. This event sets Simbala on a quest down the river to retrieve the Book.

The strength of this small novel is the powerful themes that are contained within the story. The themes of colonialism and its impact on indigenous cultures, Westernisation, human rights, theft, revenge, methods of activism and effecting change and healing are all explored within the novel. Some reviewers have commented on it’s lack of subtlety but this is appropriate for Middle School readers and is more than adequately compensated by Croggon’s beautiful use of language.

Endorsed by Amnesty International, this is a beautiful book that raises many issues for discussion and is worth considering for Middle School students.

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