Writer Ambassadors Share Their Passion For Room To Read at The Children’s Bookshop

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a fabulous event for my favourite organisation Room to Read. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I’ve supported and volunteered for Room to Read for the last five years. Room to Read build schools and libraries in developing nations (7 countries in Asia and 3 in Africa) and provide scholarships for girls. They also publish children’s books in local languages, written by local authors and illustrated by local artists. The focus is on literacy and gender equality. Having been to India and visited some of their program schools I know first hand how effective they really are. I managed to snap a few pics last night but apologies for the quality. As a way of raising awareness here in Australia we have a wonderful team of Writer Ambassadors. Last night Susanne Gervay, Deb Abela and Gus Gordon all spoke about their own passion for books and why it’s so important to promote books and reading in countries where children have very limited access to books. Susanne spoke of her own visits to third world countries where she has witnessed the life changing impact of education. Deb spoke of the way children can enter new worlds through books and explained the importance of educating girls in countries where they are often removed from the education system much earlier than their male siblings. Educated girls will grow up to educate their own children and so the cycle of poverty is broken. And Gus talked about the books that influenced him as a child and opened up his imagination...

In honour of Bruce’s 2013 Australian Tour: A Taste of What We Can Expect and Other Things I’m Up To This Week

You know how you have weeks where nothing happens and weeks where everything seems to happen? Well this week is one of the latter for me. To start with I’m getting fast and furious with my new writing project – trying to up my daily word count and get some plot happening. Next, it’s a big week for the not-for-profit organisation I support. The founder of Room to Read, John Wood, is in Sydney, making a number of appearances. On Thursday I’ll be attending a book signing at Berkelouw’s Paddington where John will be signing copies of his new book Creating Room to Read. And on Friday night I’ll be attending the annual wine gala which is Room to Read Sydney’s biggest fund-raiser. The nice thing about this is I usually attend as a volunteer but this time I’m actually attending as a guest along with a few of the other long time volunteers. It will be great to be sitting at a table rather than waiting on one, although that’s always been a great experience too. If you’re in Sydney (or maybe even if you’re not) you can catch John Wood this afternoon on 702 chatting to Richard Glover. Here’s the link if you’d like to tune in: http://www.abc.net.au/sydney/programs/listenlive.htm And my other big event of the week is seeing The Boss, Bruce Springsteen. I haven’t seen Bruce since the mid eighties and while I’m not all that familiar with his more recent music I have fond memories of his earlier albums, The River and Born in The USA. I vaguely remember dancing on tables in a Port Macquarie night...

Daring To Dream: Students and Writers Making a Difference

Last Friday I had an inspiring day which can be summed up by these three words: Daring to Dream. First stop on my schedule was a visit to Kambala where I was doing a presentation for Room to Read, a fantastic not-for-profit organisation which I volunteer for and which I’ve mentioned in this blog before. I had been invited to the assembly to tell the primary students more about Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org) and why education is the key to ending the cycle of poverty. 5R were also on the agenda for the assembly and began their “show” with a presentation called Dare to Dream in which each girl stood and told the audience what she “dared” to be when she was older. Hearing the girls talk about being actors, architects, doctors, writers and a whole array of other wonderful occupations gave me goose-bumps. These 11 year olds are being taught – and rightly so – that they can do and be anything, an opportunity that was denied to women only a couple of generations ago, and is still impossible for many women around the world. How fortunate we are to live in a society where gender equality is openly promoted. Of course the glass ceiling still exists in many areas of the business world but for these young women the sky is the limit so kudos to the teachers who are encouraging such determination and optimism about the future. The girls have so far raised almost $1500 to help girls in Zambia have an education that will allow them to fulfil their own dreams.   Stella, a third grader in...

Indian Girls Renamed and Given a Fresh Start

Loved the story in the SMH this morning about the 200 plus girls in Mumbai, India, whose names mean “unwanted” and who have chosen new names for a fresh start in life. An official renaming ceremony was held in which girls with names like Nakusa or Nakushi (unwanted in Hindi) changed their names to things like Ashmita, meaning “very tough” or Savitri, a Hindu goddess. The girls were originally named by family members like their grandfathers or parents who were disappointed at having a girl. The enormous expense of marrying off girls (which involves a dowry, often quite sizeable) means that culturally giving birth to a boy is a much better option. This has resulted in a high ratio of abortion of female foetuses and poor treatment of daughters in many cases, including higher death rates. The girls who were renamed in Mumbai now have a new sense of identity and self-worth. Education is the key to preventing such discrimination. When I visited India last year with Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org) and saw the wonderful work being done there to educate girls – and boys – about gender equality, it gave me hope that the world can one day truly become a place where all people are given an equal chance to realise their potential. Hopefully the renaming of the girls in Mumbai will be another step in breaking the cycle of poverty and discrimination still experienced by women in so many parts of the...

Deb Abela and Zak the Yak

Yesterday at Berkelouw’s Leichhardt the fabulous Deb Abela, author of Grimsdon  and the Max Remy Spy series, generously donated her time to do a reading of Zak the Yak with Books on His Back for Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org) For those who haven’t heard about Room to Read it’s a global not-for profit organisation that promotes and raises funds for gender equality and literacy in 9 developing countries. Zak the Yak was written by founder John Wood to tell the amazing story of how the organisation first began in a way that children can understand and enjoy. With fantastic illustrations by Abin Shrestha it’s a great read for younger readers – and big kids too! Also joining Deb at Berkelouw’s was Erin Ganju, co-founder and CEO of Room to Read all the way from the USA and none other than Zak the Yak himself. As the photos show a great time was had by all. Many thanks to Berkelouw’s, Deb, Erin and Zak and to all who attended. For information on Deb and her books go to: http://deborahabela.com/site/Welcome.html For a sneak peek of Zak the Yak go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZMXoiVWWGY For more information about Room to Read do to www.roomtoread.org or http://www.roomtoread.org/australia  and for great Zak activities go to...

New Writer Ambassadors for Room to Read

I’m still feeling inspired after meeting the new Writer Ambassadors for Room to Read: Kate Forsyth, Deb Abela, Belinda Murrell and Oliver Phommavanh. And of course always wonderful to chat with fabulous writer Susanne Gervay who has been a long time supporter. Also at the meeting was Caroline Mclean from The Reading Room (www.thereadingroom.com), an online resource for readers and bookclubs, another valued supporter. For those of you who don’t know about Room to Read it’s a global organisation that builds schools and libraries in developing countries along with providing scholarships for girls and publishing children’s books in local languages. We are also developing first-rate literacy programs. I was fortunate enough to go to India in December and visit four schools in remote areas of Rajasthan. And I can tell you first hand the educational progress that’s being made is mind-blowing. Not only are the children learning to read, their families and communities are given access to the libraries and they are also being taught life skills that will influence their lives way beyond the classroom. The Sydney Chapter of Room to Read is only a few years old but already we have raised around 4 million dollars. As the Students Helping Students Coordinator I aim to spread the word about Room to Read to as many schools as possible, not only to fundraise but to raise awareness and help create responsible global citizens. With the help of our Writer Ambassadors –  who also include Melina Marchetta, Markus Zusak, James Knight, Tristan Bancks, Gus Gordon and Libby Hathorn – we are looking forward to inspiring many more students not just to...