'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Guest Post: Do You Support the Australian Children's Laureate?

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Lindy Batchelor - author, NSW ACLA committee Member and Vice President of Northern Sydney CBCA sub branch - to discuss the ACLA and the role of the Australian Children's Laureate.

The Australian Children’s Literature Alliance [ACLA] was founded in 2008, after wide consultation with a range of people in the Australian children’s book industry. It is a national, independent not for profit organisation and its overall aim is “to enrich the lives of young Australians through the power of reading”.

ACLA is managed by a Board with representatives from all aspects of the children’s and YA book industry – publishers, booksellers, authors, teachers, librarians, illustrators and literacy specialists. Until recently it employed two part time project managers in the head office in Victoria. Noni Hazelhurst is the patron and there is also a network of committees in each state.

Jackie French - Australian Children's Laureate 2014/15

What are the major activities of ACLA?
ACLA aims to be the umbrella organisation for children’s literature in Australia. One of the major activities of ACLA is to appoint and support an Australian Children’s Laureate. The Laureate is a national and international ambassador for reading, an Australian spokesperson for children’s literature.

The Laureate is appointed for two years, based on the longstanding UK model that has seen talented creators such as Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Browne and Julia Donaldson promote children’s books and reading in their own unique ways. The recently appointed UK Laureate Chris Riddell said: “I am humbled to take on this role after the giants that have come before me.” There are also Laureates in the USA, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Mexico and Wales.

Our inaugural dual Australian Laureates appointed for 2012-13 were Alison Lester and Boori Monty Prior. The current hardworking 2014-15 children’s Laureate, and also Senior Australian of the Year 2015, is Jackie French whose theme for her Laureate term is ‘Reading Changes Lives’. Our next Laureate will be announced in February 2016.

What is the role of the Australian Children’s Laureate?
Through the Laureate Program we aim for the following outcomes:

  • Build awareness of the benefits of reading
  • Encourage access to reading, books and storytellers
  • Support literacy for all Australians including indigenous literacy
  • Address the unique challenges Australia faces in reaching children, families, schools and libraries in regional and remote areas
  • Support and promote the work being carried out by literacy organisations
  • Support Australian writers, booksellers and publishers.

There’s a strong correlation between low literacy, poor health, and low socio-economic status. Reading is a gold pass to the world, and by creating a reading culture in Australia we can enhance and strengthen Australia’s future as a nation.

Boori Monty Pryor and Alison Lester - Joint Australian Children's Laureates 2012/13

The Laureates commit to a busy schedule that includes touring every state and territory, to regional and remote areas. Our Laureates convey the importance of reading at every talk showing children the value and importance that a simple thing like reading can offer. They do this by giving children confidence, demonstrating their passion for stories and sharing their own experiences.

Boori Pryor was able to tell children about how his Aboriginal culture has influenced his work; Jackie French shows children that even if they have profound dyslexia, as she does, they can achieve good things, like reading and writing books; and Alison Lester created books with children to demonstrate the importance of their place in the world.

ACLA co-convened a meeting of many children’s Laureates at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March this year that has led to a proposed campaign to promote the ‘Rights of the child reader’ around the world.Our Laureates have already spoken to more than 60,000 children at 250 events.

How is the Laureate program funded?
ACLA relies on organisations as sponsors and donors, and has been grateful since its inception to the Copyright Agency, The Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Society of Authors, publishers, the CBCA and The State Library of Victoria. There have been various applications to obtain grants, but with changes in legislation and funding these have proved difficult to obtain. You will have noticed that last month a fundraising campaign was launched to secure the financial future of ACLA. It has been pleasing to see the number of individuals and organisations who have responded so willingly to help in this campaign.

How can you help?
This initiative of embedding a reading culture in Australia will create a country of educated children who go on to build our nation into a greater place to live.

ACLA encourages you to be involved in as many clever ways as possible. Perhaps you can:
  • Help promote ACLA when speaking to children and adults to develop the culture of reading starting at an early age and continuing throughout their lives
  • Encourage people to visit the ACLA website, which is full of reading suggestions and activities
  • Seek support from individuals you think may be interested in helping
  • Participate in Jackie’s Share a Story calendar and activities
  • #loveyourlaureate and like ACLA on Facebook
  • Put ACLA in contact with a philanthropist who might be interested in this project
  • Consider donating money – as an individual or organisation
  • Be an active part of ACLA
In fact, if each creator who recently received an ELR payment, donates 1% [or more!] of his or her 2014-2015 disbursement [I did] ACLA would have their long term future guaranteed! Please think about it...

Lindy Batchelor has enjoyed her variety of careers as teacher, school and public librarian, author, bookseller and passionate supporter of children's literature. She was the founding President of the Northern Sydney sub branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia, is a NSW ACLA committee member, and enjoys helping to bring children, books, authors and illustrators together.