The Byron Bay Writers' Festival session titled 'The Future of Reading' featured James Cowan, Andy Griffiths, Rhoda Roberts and Vikki Wakefield.
Andy Griffiths believes that "all text stories still have their own appeal, and win!" By all text stories Griffiths is talking about children's books that don't contain pictures. He believes that this is because 'all text stories' "allow for imagination!"
I was startled by the figure shared in this panel - "46% of Australians literacy skills are not high enough for daily activities like reading the newspaper".
Vikki Wakefield said "I want people to develop a love for reading. The ability to read is not just a life skill, it's a life saving skill".
Wakefield is a young adult writer and talked about the 'terrible teens' - "teenagers try to find the unoccupied space in their family, by dressing in black, etc, because it is normally that dark role that is available". She said how empowering it is to look back and realise that your family was always there. Wakefield hopes that important messages are conveyed within her stories, such as 'don't run off'.
Rhoda Roberts discussed how literacy skills are lower for Indigenous people than Europeans. She noted that the major cause for this is that there are not many references on TV, in magazines, books, etc. There are few Indigenous characters in texts for Indigenous readers to relate to.
Roberts said that Indigenous youth gain stories for various medias, including digital medias, such as mobile phones and youtube (check out the Chooky Dancers). Roberts told us that Indigenous people tell stories in a broad range of ways.
Roberts believes that there are many issues with the Government 'Close the Gap' policies: "there is no mention of culture or intergnerational exchange of knowledge". Close the Gap aims to ensure all Indigenous people have housing, schooling, etc, but culture will be lost. For Indigenous people literacy is about reading a book, but it also about reading country.
Thanks to the panelists for a great discussion. Some very important points raised!
Callan Brunsdon has also blogged about this session, check it out here.