The role of story for humankind is a given: we live storied lives. Reading rich literature is always pleasurable (and sometimes challenging). But it is much more than a source of entertainment. Quality literary texts enable us to nurture our imaginations, understand who we are and what our place might be in the world, value different perspectives, develop empathy and compassion, question, laugh, cry, wonder and help us to heal. As Olivia Fialho (2019) writes:
the purpose of literature lies in the experience itself, in its power to prompt us to connect deeply and conscientiously with our emotions, deepening our senses of who we are, what we are in this world for, and how we are in a relationship with others.Olivia Fialho
Opportunities to share our literary reading with others helps us grow together as a rich and diverse community and enables the envisioning of alternative possibilities and different ways of knowing, doing, being and becoming. Every child and young person is entitled to easy access to a rich diversity of literature in their homes and classrooms.
Australia is privileged to have many talented authors, artists and illustrators, designers and publishers who create high quality literature for children and young people from birth to adulthood. Rich literature should be a foundational resource in the teaching of talking, listening, reading, writing and viewing. Unfortunately, too much emphasis on overly contrived texts in literacy learning can fail to engage and nurture early learners’ imaginations and creativities and sustain their love of reading. If we want to nurture empathy in our learners so they can understand different perspectives and explore alternative ways of doing, being and becoming, we must ensure rich literature is at the heart of every home, library and classroom.
Thirteen peak Australian professional associations, organisations, foundations and councils representing thousands of English and literacy educators and community groups have partnered to develop an online, free Literature Symposium under the umbrella of We all love a good story. Sessions include short keynotes, conversations with authors, artists, educators and young learners and panel discussions to explore the power and pleasure of literature from many perspectives. Each highlights how and why rich and imaginative literature should be a central in both homes and classrooms.
Program dates, details and a once-only registration link can be found here.
The first of these presentations launches on Wednesday 8 June and the series will conclude in mid-November. After each presentation is released, it will be available on YouTube for use by teachers, librarians, school leaders, early years educators, parents, carers, and all interested in ensuring there is rich literature in every home, preschool, classroom and library.
The organisations are:
Children’s Book Council Australia
Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation
Indigenous Literacy Foundation
Australian Council of TESOL Associations
Primary English Teaching Association Australia
Australian Literacy Educators’ Association
Australian School Libraries Association
Australian Theatre for Young People
Sydney Theatre Company
Foundation for Learning and Literacy
Robyn Ewing AM is formerly a primary teacher and currently Professor Emerita and Co- Director, Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts, Transforming Education, Health and Wellbeing (CREATE) Centre, University of Sydney. A former past president of ALEA and PETAA, she is Co-Convenor of the Foundation of Learning and Literacy.
Jo Padgham is currently co-convenor of the Foundation for Learning and Literacy, a former primary principal and system leader in the public education system and past vice president of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association. Jo has been awarded ALEA Life Membership, ALEA Principal Fellow, Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders, ACEL Award for Collaborative Practice and the ACT Women’s Honour Roll.