Fiona Stager said that Avid Reader has been involved with the ILF since its inception.
“It was started by my dear friend Suzy Wilson who runs Riverbend Books in Bulimba. A speaker we heard at a conference inspired her, and Suzy being Suzy, wasn’t just inspired, she actually set about making and creating what would become the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. So, it started with Suzy and then it became an all of industry initiative, with booksellers and publishers working together.”
Ms Stager said that the Foundation works with communities to get them the books that they want. All books are new: the Foundation does not accept second handbooks.
“It’s grown into a wonderful organisation that translates and publishes a lot of books into language, and then takes the most amazing authors and illustrators into remote communities.”
Ms Stager said that writers, such as Andy Griffith and Alison Lester work tirelessly going to communities and running workshops.
“It’s a multi-pronged foundation that works across all areas, and they’re amazing.”
Statistics show that literacy levels are extremely low for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially those living in remote communities.
The ILF says that numerous remote communities don’t have many, if any, books, and most of the remote communities the Foundation works with report that there are fewer than five books in family homes.
“And that’s often because people will speak a minimum of four or five languages, and English could often be the fifth language,” Ms Stager said.
“It also comes down to the systemic racism that has caused these children to have really low literacy rates.”
“If you can’t read, it’s really hard to get a driver’s license. If you can’t read, you can’t follow prescription medication or legal documents. So, at that really practical level, it has long term generational impacts. But it also means you’re not open to this amazing world that we all have access to, and that’s the written world, where you get taken away by a book in your own language. So, you miss out on that sheer unadulterated joy that people like you and I take for granted.”
Ms Stager welcomes visitors to the shop on Wednesday, but she said getting sales is not the point of participating in Indigenous Literacy Day, and she encourages people to donate directly to the Foundation.
Her aim on Indigenous Literacy Day, Ms Stager said, is to highlight the importance of Indigenous literacy as well as the many indigenous writers that we have across all genres from children’s picture books through to award-winning fiction for children, Miles Franklin award-winning authors and non-fiction writers.
“Indigenous people are writing in all of those areas. So, that’s what I want to highlight. And also, to highlight the work that the Indigenous Literacy Foundation does,” Ms Stager said.
Where the Wild Things Are has a wonderful display of books by Indigenous writers and books that tell stories about Indigenous families and communities. Ms Stager says that while Aboriginal children need access to books that tell their stories, these books are important for all children, who by reading them can relate to and respect Aboriginal culture.
Join the National Celebrations
Nationally Indigenous Literacy Day will be celebrated at 12.30pm on Wednesday with a 45-minute celebratory event via YouTube with ILF Ambassador Jessica Mauboy and long-time supporter Archie Roach.
The production will be a highly visual event to inspire broader Australia about the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s first languages and why learning in language is important. Kids and community members from Tiwi Islands and Jilkminggan in the Northern Territory and Bidyadanga in Western Australia share their stories and the value of language, and Cheryl Lardy reads Yu sabi densdensbad? (Can You Dance?) in Kriol.
Other ILF Ambassadors, including Andy Griffiths, Shelley Ware, Alison Lester, Josh Pyke, Natalie Ahmat, Jared Thomas and Anita Heiss will share their insights and stories of community engagement.
Every $10 puts a book into the hands of a child in remote Australia.
To donate, go to ild.org.au
Feature image from ILF