Lovely article about Ian Thorpe’s endeavours to improve indigenous literacy in yesterday’s Herald Sun:
A TINY six-seater plane lands on a dusty runway, somewhere east of Katherine in the Northern Territory.
Out leaps swimming superstar Ian Thorpe with a precious cargo – hundreds of books. Every child will go home with a selection of titles including Where The Wild Things Are and Dr Seuss.
“For some of these kids it is the first book that they have seen,” Thorpe said.
The literacy backpack is one of his favourite programs carried out by the Fountain for Youth Foundation – the charity he set up as an 18 year old.
The foundation focuses almost exclusively on closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Thorpe was shocked by what he saw when he walked into his first remote community six years ago. “Australia has some of the worst poverty in the world. That was the catalyst for my involvement,” he said.
A wonderful program by Ian Thorpe’s Fountain for Youth Foundation.
Let’s also support indigenous literacy by making sure every school has a well-resourced library and a teacher librarian.
95% of NT schools have NO school librarians! which may go a long way towards explaining illiteracy.
Most schools in the NT have budget of less than $1000 per year for their libraries.
School library collections in NT remote schools (the majority) do not have a large range of resources often used to develop pre-reading skills such as big books, games, puzzles, posters and charts. Students in these schools do not have access to magazines, maps, or newspapers which are especially useful for reluctant readers (often boys) and teenage readers.
Nearly half the schools in the NT do not have access to traditional learning technologies such as videos, DVDs, CDs and CD-ROMs.
So is it any wonder that we must try to do something to help indigenous students to learn to read?
Yes, it is terrible that someone like Ian Thorpe has to take this on as a personal mission. Well staffed and resourced schools and school libraries should be a basic right for every child.