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For children in remote communities, getting access to books can be tough. Here's what Australia Post is doing to help.

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Thanks to our brand partner, Australia Post

It was back in October 2019 that I finished my teaching degree. That was it, I was officially a teacher.    

The 5 year long slog of my degree was over; the reading of hundreds and hundreds of studies of language acquisition, child psychology and development was completed (for the moment), and I was free to read again for personal enjoyment.   

When I say for personal enjoyment, I mean I could read my favourite soppy Irish fiction think: Sally Rooney and Marian Keyes as well as dabble in the biographies of astonishing people.

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and finally completing university meant that at last, I could read again without doing so as a chore. 

Besides teaching, reading for fun is one of my greatest loves. A love I wish all children had the opportunity to have.

When I scored my first teaching job, I dreamed of the reading nook I would set up in my classroom. A comfy, calming space with a huge, quality picture book collection. 

I had the most elaborate Pinterest board ever, there was nothing amiss. I believed then and now that everything else in my classroom would fall into place, but the reading nook was a key component of the classroom that needed to be ready on day one, to inspire that love of reading in the next generation of children. 

Before children read words, they learn to hold a book. 

And how to turn a page. And how to identify the importance of pictures in stories.

Image: Supplied.

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Children should be able to recognise themselves and their lives in books to foster that love of reading, so the pressure to deliver was on. 

By my first day of teaching, I was able to create a wonderful reading nook full of interesting, quality and culturally-appropriate books. Doing this was seamless because I live in Brisbane, where children’s books are readily accessible in so many places, and reasonably priced.

I’m a First Nations woman who became a teacher.

I wanted to be a teacher because I believe that it’s education (culture and Western education simultaneously) that enhances the lives of First Nations people the most.

I also know that as a First Nations woman who experienced an incredible amount of hurdles in finishing my own degree, people in remote communities face those same barriers and more. 

I am acutely aware that only 36% of First Nations children (in the 10-year-old age bracket) living in remote communities are at or above the national minimum reading standard. This data came out of the NAPLAN 2019 results, and it blows my mind: that’s 64% percent that cannot read at the level needed to function in a classroom. 

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As a teacher who not only loves to read but is well-informed about the difference literacy makes in the lives of children, this statistic is heartbreaking to me. 

Having the ability to read opens doors.

It allows children to gain a deeper sense of self, identity and understanding of the world. It's always on my mind that children in remote areas are missing out on that opportunity. 

A key factor that hinders literacy levels in some remote communities is the lack of quality book supply. 

Many teachers may only be able to count on one hand the number of books for their class of students, a reality that a lot of metro-based teachers will be shocked by.  

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) says the average number of books per household in remote communities is just five.

Five books.

In addition, the cost of freight and lack of competition in these communities means prices on groceries are significantly higher in comparison to costs in capital cities. The Minister for Indigenous Australians even launched an inquiry last year to investigate food prices in remote Indigenous communities, and the impact on those living in the region.

For parents that might be paying more than $7 for a carton of milk or $16 for a pack of sausages, having the income to pay for ‘non-necessities’ like books is likely unachievable for many remote families. 

Here's what Australia Post are doing about it.

There are organisations taking important steps to help, like Australia Post. As a major sponsor of not-for-profit organisation, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Australia Post is providing free delivery services of their Book Supply packs. These packs provide new, culturally relevant books to young readers in schools, healthcare centres and service organisations in remote communities. 

The ILF works with more than 30 publishers, to not just gift books, but to ensure those books are engaging and culturally relevant titles to schools, libraries, playgroups, women's centres, youth centres and other service organisations that use the books in different ways. 

So far, this Australia Post partnership has ensured the safe delivery of over 185,000 books to 325 remote communities, giving children and their families access to new and culturally appropriate books (40% of books featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and illustrators.)   

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Image: Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Photographer: Tiffany Parker.

As a teacher of a Year 2 class, all of whom identify as First Nations, this is incredibly important and heartwarming to me.

And now in 2021 while the pandemic has had borders closed and people separated, Australia Post and the ILF still expect to deliver even more books than they did in 2020, straight into the hands of young readers that will benefit so much from them.

Image: Supplied.

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The positive impact this will have for their literacy and skills development, imagination, and sense of visibility and belonging will be greater than they'll ever really know.

For many of the children receiving these books, this may be the first time they have ever owned a book. Life-changing.

As a teacher with many years of primary education in front of me, and as a long-time lover of reading, I am so grateful that there are organisations like Australia Post recognising and partnering in the important work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. 

How many books do you have in your home? 50? 100? For many of Australia’s remote Indigenous communities, the answer is fewer than 5.

That's why Australia Post has partnered with the  Indigenous Literacy Foundation to help deliver quality books that reflect children's lives. Learn more about Australia Post's literacy programs here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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MMSurvey
Australia Post
As a proud partner of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Australia Post has helped them deliver 185,000 books to children in 325 remote communities. And they're not stopping there. Learn more at auspost.com.au/literacy