On Friday 29th November I attended a function at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne to help say farewell to the inaugural Australian Children’s Laureates, Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor and to also welcome the new Laureate Jackie French. It was a terrific evening, where both Alison & Boori talked about their time as a Laureate and Alison showed slides of some of the schools she visited and the art work produced during the visits. Between them, they talked to 10,000 children in the two years, an astonishing feat.
A silent auction was part of the proceedings with many artworks donated by illustrators available to bid on. I am still bitterly disappointed that I was outbid in my quest to have my tabby cat Evie feature in the next book by Nick Bland, but I guess I’ll get over it! Bidding for a Shaun Tan painting went live with a telephone bidder and the selling price for that work was over two thousand dollars. The funds are much needed by the programme to ensure it’s future.
When Jackie French took to the stage to give her speech, everyone was struck, though not surprised, at her passion for the subject of reading and literacy for children. She also spoke a little of the difference a compassionate teacher had made in her life, when Jackie was young and vulnerable. Jackie talked not only about the importance of books in a child’s life, but also of the need for a secure and safe bed in which to read it, something most of us take for granted. She emphasized that the needier the child, the more valuable a book could be. She has loads of ideas for her time as Laureate and if you don’t all hear about her in the next two years, I’ll be very surprised. I think we all left the room feeling that the new Laureate was a firebrand who would get a lot of Australian’s talking about reading and books and them being necessities, not luxuries in a child’s life. Go Jackie!!!