In my previous post I mentioned Barbara, giver of the Happiness Kit.
Long before the Happiness Kit came into my household, Barbara (and her family ) gave us other gifts: the gift of thoughtful words, like these,
Barbara’s student words about our duty and responsibility to establish a saner world for our children: School Magazine 1944
and the gift of Angela, otherwise known as my sister-in-law. This coming week it will be Angela’s birthday. This post is my birthday gift to Angela. ~
I write a lot about reading; reading books, in particular.
This is where my official reading life began; Lautoka European School,
My brother, first row, 4th from the left; the advance reading party; my mentor at L.E.S.
a small school, in a small colonial town, on a dot of an island, in the vast Pacific Ocean. My reading ‘prowess’ was acquired, staid word upon staid word, with the assistance of the utterly dull, ‘what-have-these-people-got-to-do-with-my-life’ Janet and John readers, and a young teacher who, whilst relatively benign most of the time, once had the audacity to strap some of us on the back of our legs for failing to recognise the word of the day on the blackboard ~ “BARK”. I was offended, and still am to this day! WOOF! :D
Despite this unfortunate hiccup in my early reading days, my enthusiasm for reading did not falter. I attribute that enthusiasm to the pre-reading skills that were nurtured at home,
Gallivanta playing with Mother aka reading readiness
and at my mother’s kindergarten, through play and story-time. I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember the books that were read and that I later learned to read by myself. Many of those books remain on my bookshelves. Here’s a sample:
Open the Window, Open the Door
Reading at Home
As I was learning to understand, and love, the written word in Lautoka, about 200kms to the East, another young girl was already well on the road to reading her way through the world of books.
In May, this year, that young girl, now all grown up as Angela Namoi, was awarded the Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books at the Australian Book Industry Awards. It was a fitting honour for Angela’s hard work and enormous contribution to children’s literature. But more than that, it seems to me, the award acknowledges how from the smallest of beginnings, a few, simple written words, be they Janet and John or Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, come riches far greater than any we can possibly imagine when, in that magical nanosecond, we first decipher those squiggles on the page before us.
Angela puts it like this in these excerpts from her acceptance speech for the Pixie O’Harris award.
This is a huge honour and something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.
Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie by Pixie O’Harris was a favourite children’s book of mine – who’d have thought that I would one day win an award bearing her name.
There are people to thank!……….
My parents are Australian, but I was born and raised in Fiji. My father was a missionary so we had very little money. Although our clothes might have been sewn from old curtains, it’s thanks to my mother’s excellent sense of priorities that our house was always full of books.
Growing up on a small island meant we were exposed to influences from absolutely everywhere. We read books from all over the world and I was always fascinated by the variations in language, and how connected that was to geography.
This has fed my passion for diversity of voice, so I have greatly enjoyed working to ensure the Australian voice is heard LOUD AND CLEAR in the wider world!
My early experiences confirmed the importance of books in a child’s life. The stats are there for everyone to see – broadly, a child who has books in their home is a child who will do better in life. I believe this passionately.
To that I would add: Congratulations and Happy Birthday Angela. You are much-loved.
Related but separate: two examples of Australian Children’s Literature
Possum Magic by Mem Fox
and The Arrival by Shaun Tan
There are many more. Next time you read a children’s book, take a quick look and check its country of origin. You may find you are in the good company of an Australian. ;)