Hey cHEwY gum gums.

Last Thursday, I went to the first Laureate Summit. The drawcard was a chance to see five literary heavyweights share the same stage. The five Oz Laureates, Alison Lester, Jackie French, Boori Monty Pryor, Leigh Hobbs and current laureate MG (Or Morris Gleitzman, MG lets me call him that since we are Author buddies now haha) all spoke about their time as laureates.

Each of them had a different focus during the time as laureates. Leigh, being an ex-teacher, wanted to fight on behalf of teacher-librarians to put libraries at the heart of the school. Monty had a desire to put storytelling in the spotlight. MG wanted to reach out to the adults; the parents and wider community to play their part in making books important in kids’ lives.

But whether it was a school visit, event or function, all of the laureates wanted to show kids that books and stories are still relevant in their lives. Jackie French admitted that some books are boring. Yes, we can blame screens, but if kids had the right book in front of them, they would read it. She would bet a bag of chocolates on it.

Actually, if anyone had the right book in front of them, they would read it. Nozi Hazelwood who did the opening address mentioned that we should donate books, not just to underprivileged and remote areas, but as gifts too. Jackie went one step further and said we should be giving books to anyone; the plumber, neighbours and friends. You can leave books on the train if you like. The book can be anything, the latest thriller, cookbook or the love lives of cricket players. Forget reading, the real battle is getting the book in front of people’s faces.

The second half of the day was interactive and a chance for many delegates to share and speak out. We went into smaller groups and did some brainstorming about what we can do to promote reading. It was less about quick solutions and more about snapshots of what’s going on around Australia. Teacher-librarians without a library. Teachers starting a book club. A plea for everyone to use public libraries so the councils will pump more money into them.

Of course, this summit is only the beginning of a dialogue, a chance for all of us to come together and work towards getting books in people’s hands. MG said that while the media and public find it easier to deal to one figurehead, the true power of the laureates lie beyond an individual, but a wider group of people. Organisations like Books in Homes, CBCA and Story Box. Teacher librarians. Authors and illustrators. Book lovers. While it’s true that books can help equip kids with creativity to kick butt in the future, we all need to play a part.

It’s quite simple really.

Read a book. Give someone a book. Just talk about books.

Never underestimate the power of stories.


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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