Last week I had the privilege of attending two local schools as part of the Books in Homes programme.
Books in Homes Australia is a charitable foundation that provides books-of-choice to children living in remote, disadvantaged and low socio-economic circumstances, ensuring crucial early literacy engagement and the development of reading skills needed for lifelong achievement.
I made the 90km round trip to two rural schools that offered such a wonderful contrast.
First was to Denman Public School, a small rural town with a mix of small farms as well as surrounding coal mines. I was greeted by the Books in Homes Coordinator Kerri-Ann Brown and the Principal Megan Druitt, and met the representative from BHP, who have taken up sponsorship of the program.
Denman Public school is well equipped school of about 160 students, with a small library and even a school hall where the presentations were made after we sang the National Anthem ( and I struggled with verse two!) All children receive 3 books each term so they build up quite a library from the Scholastic catalogue. I addressed the assembly briefly and told them of my passion for books, reading and writing.
Later in the week I drove back to Denman and on to Martindale and the small one teacher school there. The school has only 16 children and there were 15 on this day and half the P&C…that is 4 mothers who were running a canteen for the day. The Principal Sharon Rivers is also the teacher and Books in Homes coordinator and she has been there for 30 years.
This area is typical of the harsh drought conditions all are experiencing and the school’s vegetable garden is in decline as is the lawn and the Council have to fill the water tank regularly.There are no longer any dairy farms in the area.
The children set up the stage with blocks at the front and counted out the chairs under the shelter. We looked out to the paddocks beyond and the small farms that are home to most of the children. All the children came up to receive special awards such as ‘ improvement in handwriting’ and showing ‘resilience in the playground’ and then they were all given their wonderful black bags full of the books they had chosen earlier in the year. They opened them with great excitement having largely forgotten what they had ordered so long ago! The school used to fund all the books until BHP came on board as a sponsor.
‘The BHP and Books in Homes Australia partnership has been expanded to deliver almost 60,000 books to 1,870 Australian children across Australia over the next three years. The important literacy partnership will see primary school children, pre-schoolers and children aged 0 to 3, receive reading materials who for various reasons otherwise might not have access to them.
The expansion of the partnership, which began in 2011 and has already seen nearly 15,000 books reach children throughout regional Australia has helped to build not only literacy skills but excitement in young Australians about reading.’
I really enjoyed my two days at the schools and was delighted to be be a role model for such a great cause so close to my heart.