Better Reading Kids headed to Canberra last weekend to see two wonderful Australian authors: Leigh Hobbs and Jackie French! It was the first ever Canberra Writers Festival, and everyone was excited to be there and get involved at beautiful locations across Canberra, including The National Library and the Museum of Australian Democracy.
Jackie French was the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2014/15, and said it was a special experience, although it wasn’t quite like what she had expected. She became a beacon for kids, someone for them to reach out to.
Jackie also spoke about how important it is to just get kids reading, even if that involves a little bribery. She told a story about a teacher at a boy’s boarding school, who would give mugs of hot chocolate (with marshmallows) as a reward to any student who would read for just five minutes a night. By the end of the term, she was receiving thank you cards from all the boys. Sometimes, a little bribe may be just the thing.
Jackie controversially declared that “most books are boring,” but don’t worry, she explains further. To any one reader, there are a lot of books out there that won’t be for them, that won’t interest them, that won’t speak to their particular passions. The trick is finding that magic choice that does. Leigh Hobbs, for example, loves to read a lot of non-fiction, especially about history and architecture. It may not be for everyone – but for him that’s the magic.
Leigh, who is the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016 and 2017, told us about a young boy and his reading passions. Leigh was visiting a school and felt a tug at his leg. It was a kid who looked up and him and said: “what do you know about desert fox?” Hobbs knew it was the nickname for German Army officer Erwin Rommel, and the child eagerly took Hobbs to his locker to show him all the books he had about Rommel, saying “finally someone is interested!” It was a sad story, that no-one had shown any interest before, but also a lesson that what appears boring to some, is fascinating to others.
Both authors spoke at length about how crucial libraries and librarians are, and the unique role they play. Leigh and Jackie regularly visit schools all over the country, and see the effect that a great library has on a school community. The topic for their session was ‘Reading Changes Lives,’ and it was clear that the library is a place that helps make that happen. All in all, a wonderful conversation from two of Australia’s favourite writers for kids.
Photo credit to Jackie French