By FAUSTINA AGOLLEY
It was a perfect day, not so long ago – I was reading to my three-year-old niece Ella. My brother had insisted I read her “My Dad Loves Me!” by Marianne Richmond. As I read, Ella would chime in at the top of her lungs to complete each sentence. We read two more books before lights were out and that’s when my thoughts of gratitude surfaced.
Every day, whether it’s on a drive to an appointment or before I go to sleep, I find the time to go through a mental list of things that I’m grateful for. It’s a regular habit to keep myself in check and to keep the optimism brewing, even on the not so great days (thankfully, those don’t happen too often).
Like many kids her age, Ella is fortunate enough to grow up in a family and community who can teach her the skills she needs for a bright future. In the next two years I know she’ll start telling me what she wants to be when she’s older. And within the next decade she will have mastered the ability to read and write.
Having migrated to Australia from England at an early age following my father’s passing, my mother set out to give my brother and I the best opportunities possible. She was determined that we had two things above all else: a roof over our heads and a good education.
My mother’s determination paid off. My brother is now a surgeon, and I completed my degrees in the same year as landing a full time job with Network 10. I am reminded everyday that it is the basic skills of reading and writing that spring-boarded us there, and I’m grateful for my mother’s hard work and sacrifice in making sure we had these skills.
It’s sometimes easy for people to forget that once we can read and write our quality of life is instantly better. We can succeed at school, fill out job applications, learn how to drive, read the labelling on medicine, read for knowledge and for joy.
In our own country, in very remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, only one in five kids can read at the minimum standard (according to Naplan tests). I learned this shocking fact three years ago when I was first looking to support an education-based charity. A friend led me to the work of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) and I have been a passionate supporter since that day.