For the past five years, the Literacy for Life Foundation (LFLF) has been receiving books from ILF’s Book Supply program for its adult literacy campaign in Collarenebri in north-western NSW.
The books are used in a range of ways, explains Lia Weitzel, Campaign Project Officer with LFLF. Some are presented to participants at the midway and end points of the six-month course to celebrate their progress.
“They spend time showing each other what book they got and telling each other who they’re going to read it to.”
LFLF is a community-led organisation that tackles low levels of adult literacy in Indigenous communities. Local staff, who are trained by LFLF, handpick the books that are gifted, taking the ages and individual interests of family members into account, to ensure the book that is taken home will be loved, and that the parent or grandparent will want to read it to their kids or grandchildren. For many, it is the first book that has been in their home.
“We try to make the books something really special…What we really want is for the books to go into people’s homes.”
Lia gets a lot of feedback about the books from graduating participants.
“Some have never read a book to a granny [grandchild] before, and they tell us how exciting that is, and how happy it makes them. It’s empowering for them.”
One of the most enthusiastic participants in the adult literacy campaign in Collarenebri was also the oldest. In her 70s, she really understood what she’d been missing out on in her life by not being able to read.
“She told us how much she loved the book she received and how for her it brought home the stories of Stolen Generations people she knew.”
Others discover, for the first time, the joy of being able to read signs in the shops: “Oh look, that says ‘cucumber’!”
“The books from ILF definitely make the special moments in the literacy classes more special. And they have allowed people to identify as readers at home.”