Chief Minister's Reading Challenge Ambassadors
Irma Gold is an award-winning author and editor, Convener of Editing at the University of Canberra, and Editor at Melbourne publisher Inkerman & Blunt. Irma's short fiction for adults has been widely published, and her short fiction collection, Two Steps Forward, was shortlisted for, or won, a number of awards. Irma is the author of three children's books, with a fourth, Seree's Story, on the way. Following winning the NSW Writers' Centre Varuna Fellowship Award, Irma is writing a novel for adults.
It is safe to say that I am what my children call a Book Fiend. That is, I am obsessed with books and reading and writing and editing. I just love words!
My mum taught me to read before I started school and I've pretty much had a book in my hand ever since. Then, as soon as I learned to write, I realised that I could create my own worlds. I always dreamed of being an author, but even by the time I left high school I didn't think it was possible. I also had no idea of the number of cool jobs in publishing for book lovers. Now I work as an author and editor and get to play with words every day. It's the best!
Not surprisingly, all three of my children are also Book Fiends, and I'm excited to meet lots more fellow fiends through the Chief Minister's Reading Challenge.
Virginia Haussegger AM
Virginia is an award winning journalist, author and commentator whose extensive career spans more than 25 years. She is also the Chief Editor of a new gender equality blog BroadAgenda.
I Love Books
I love everything about them. I love the look and feel of them; the smell of them; and I love to read them! I never go anywhere without a book in my bag, just in case I have a few spare minutes to escape into the world of words, thoughts and stories. Books are my best friends.
When I was a girl at school my head was always full of stories and I spent much of my time in class looking out the window day-dreaming, and plotting new adventures up the Magic Faraway Tree. The English author Enid Blyton wrote a series of books about the Faraway Tree and I cherished every one of them. Reading took me to amazing and fascinating places: the sort of places I could never discover on my own. Imagine being able to climb to the top of a tree and suddenly find yourself in a completely different world, where anything and everything was possible! The characters Moonface and Silky became my favourite friends and even the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot. Later I read the Famous Five series and then The Secret Seven books, where children solved mysteries and made incredible discoveries. I suspect those books helped encourage me to become a journalist.
I always loved reading adventure stories and as I got older I read crime fiction and travel stories. Now I will read anything that takes me away from my world and helps me imagine a different life.
Tracey is an award- winning author of children's books, novels and non-fiction, and adult fiction and non-fiction. She began her writing life as a crime writing advisor and crime consultant drawing on her experience in the Australian Federal Police. While dabbling in the dark side of life, she unexpectedly fell in love with creating books for children. Nancy Bentley The First Australian Female Sailor was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards in 2012 and was winner of the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards 2012. Her picture book Max Meets a Monster was selected for the CBeebies Television show.
I have loved books since I was a baby when I would sit and turn the pages of the Sydney phone directory. After all these years I still love the feel of paper in my hands and the sheer delight of words on a page. I can't remember not being able to read, or a time when I didn't have a pile of books within easy reach. A girl can never have too many books. As a child, I grew up on a diet of mystery and adventure novels. In particular, I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton. I lived vicariously through the Secret Seven and Famous Five, forever longing for the freedom and the adventures they had. Once I grew up, I didn't waste a moment. I was always keen to travel and explore the world and so my adventures began. I have experienced many wonderful journeys in my life, and as a writer, have used these as a basis to create and write my own books.
Jack Heath is the bestselling author of fourteen exciting books for young people. He started writing his first novel, The Lab, at age 13 and earned a publishing contract at 18. His new Countdown To Danger series is a you-choose-the-path adventure for kids aged eight and up.
Reading hasn't just given me a career. It's changed the way my brain works. Every word I learn gives me a more sophisticated understanding of the world around me. Each book I read gives my imagination a workout, helping me think more creatively in everyday life. It teaches me to focus and to relax. Reading gives me sensations - smell, taste, temperature and more - that I just can't get from a TV show or a video game. And more than all that, reading has taught me that it's possible to create a spectacular work of art without several million dollars worth of equipment. All you need is the ideas in your head and a pen in your hand.
Harry Laing is a children’s author, poet, and comic performer. Shoctopus, his collection of poems for six to twelve year olds, is all about firing up readers around poetry by demonstrating how much fun it can be. Harry loves performing his poems for students, including in front of the whole school, especially when everyone joins in with one of his chants.
I don’t know what I’d do without books. If you took books away from me I think I’d get very sad. Because books are places I go to meet people I’ve never met before. Books are countries I’ve never been to. When I’m deep in a great book, I’m there; I’m rich, I’m poor, I’m in the battle, I’m in the mountains, I’m lost at sea – thrilled, scared and totally alive. And because I’m a poet I think books of poetry are the coolest (naturally!) the flavours are so intense like the words have been turbocharged. And poems are also great to perform aloud. I suppose I’m biased. But as you can tell, books are like life-blood to me. I couldn’t live without them.
Tania McCartney is an award-winning author/illustrator, and is the founder of respected websites Kids' Book Review and the 52-Week Illustration Challenge. She has been writing professionally for almost 30 years, and has a decade of experience in children’s publishing, editing, book layout and design, as well as public speaking. Tania’s most recent books include Smile Cry (SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner 2017), Merry Everything! and Australia Illustrated. In December 2018, HarperCollins will publish Mamie, a picture book about the life of May Gibbs. When she's not creating books, you'll find Tania reading, travelling, drinking coffee or championing juvenile literacy.
Books are extraordinary things. They may be comprised of ink and paper but once opened wide, entire worlds tumble out. Books enchant, enlighten and educate. They befriend and support. They take readers on a journey. And they have the potential to change children’s lives.
For kids, reading brings colour and vigour. It builds self-confidence, competence and intelligence. It fosters hope, delight and creativity, and hones aptitude, imagination and independence. Story links directly to emotional development, greater social skills and broader general knowledge. It can make kids more articulate, develops higher order reasoning, and promotes critical thinking. It brings an internal sense of freedom that only fluent readers can ever know.
When I write books for kids, my aim is to entertain first, educate second. Entertaining books help children fall in love with story, and this makes reading a joy not a chore. When we can align books with joy, love, pleasure, excitement, laughter - we create a deep love of books that hones literacy skill by association (without them even knowing it!).
For me, books and story and writing and reading is everything. As a child, story enchanted me. Like many of my age, I adored books by Dr Seuss, Enid Blyton and Richard Scarry, and nowadays, I have a picture book obsession that's borderline psychotic. But it doesn’t matter what we read, so long as we give ourselves and our kids the gift of story.
Go on. Open up a book and dive in. Enter other worlds. I dare you.