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Speech at the launch of Children’s Book Week 2012

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THE HON KATE ELLIS MP Member for Adelaide and Minister for Child Care


16 August 2012 - Launch of Children’s Book Week 2012

I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we

meet today and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

I extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are here


I’d also like to acknowledge:

− Ms Julie Wells, National President of the Children’s Book Council of Australia

and National Executive

− Mr John Forster, Vice President of the Children’s Book Council of Australia

− Ms Carla Rinaldi, Adelaide’s Thinker in Residence

− Importantly those amazing writers, illustrators and book lovers who are being

honoured here today.

It is such a privilege to be here today in the company of so many talented award

winners, publishers, librarians, teachers and Book Council members here today as we

officially launch Children’s Book Week for 2012.

This year of course is especially significant as it happens to coincide with the National

Year of Reading.

I stand before you today in my capacity as the Minister for Early Childhood, or indeed

you have so conveniently picked the location for this launch, that I can also be here as

the local Federal representative and Member for Adelaide but long before I held either of

these roles I had already learnt the significance of children’s literature.

This is because I was the little girl who would hide the torch under the bed so that I could

crawl under the covers and continue reading my books for long after my mother and

father had said goodnight and turned out my light.

Like so many of you here today I fell in love with books before I can even recall. I loved

quietly slipping into another world filled with amazing adventures and interesting

characters I identified with. I loved learning from people and places so different and

distinct from those I knew or would ever experience. And I loved the way clever and

creative writing and illustrating could transport me to the point I felt I was living and

breathing the experiences of those in my books-whether those experiences were funny,

scary, exciting, bizarre or disgusting!

I know personally that reading children’s books broadened my horizons and expanded

my world.

All of this only happens because of the talents and hard work of people like the ones

being recognised here today, and we owe you all such a debt of gratitude.

As a little girl I appreciated the contributions of children’s books but I did so purely

because of the sheer joy they brought.

The truth is that we now know that we should be celebrating and recognising the

importance of children’s books for many reasons beyond this.

Every day in my portfolio work I am driven by the fact that we know that the first five

years of a child’s life are crucial to shaping their future outcomes. I’ve studied the

research and seen the difference these years can have on the future development,

educational achievement and health and social outcomes of a child. That’s why we are

working so hard to improve the quality of care and attention that Australian children

receive at this time.

That’s also why it is so important that we instil a love of books and reading from the

earliest opportunity. We know that far beyond fun, your hard work is captivating our

children but also teaching them basic speech skills, developing their brains, encouraging

more logical thinking, building attention spans, acclimatising them to new experiences,

improving their language and communication skills and so much more.

A recent survey by The University of South Australia and The Advertiser’s Little Book

Club found that reading together builds stronger relationships.

Parents have said their babies respond better to books read to them by settling down -

listening, reaching to touch the book, smiling and making noises.

So all in all you are doing some pretty heavy lifting for our society here- and in a way

with pretty colours and pictures too!

We should celebrate that contribution that children’s authors and illustrators are making

everyday, such is its importance- but at the very least we should ensure it is

appropriately recognised this week.

It is for this reason that the theme to this year’s Children’s Book Week “Champions

Read” is one I hope carries through to all our young champions across Australia. As a

part of Book Week, schools, public libraries and of course our homes across Australia

will spend the next week are doing just that - celebrating books, authors and illustrators.


Just this week we saw debate over Playschool teaching toddlers how to tweet! But there

is one reason why books remain with us and why there will absolutely always be

children’s books that are loved and cherished and passed from generation to generation.

And that is because you do them so incredibly well.

I would again like to personally congratulate all of you here today who received an

award. Each page, each illustration opens up the minds of our young people, and this is

the power and magic of books.

I am so proud that where I grew up well mainly reading anything Enid Blyton ever wrote,

English children’s stories or Danish fairytales, my children or the future children in

Australia will grow up with an array of amazing, heralded and successful Australian

books -such is the remarkable homegrown talent in our midst.

In closing I am delighted to officially launch Children’s Book Week 2012 and I would like

to take this opportunity to acknowledge and remember a great author - Maurice Sendak

who wrote the children’s book Where The Wild Things Are and recall some

correspondence he had with one of his young readers which I think illustrates the power

you hold:

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I

loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but

this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild

Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back

from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.”

That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He

didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He

saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

Thank you and congratulations.