Here’s what one reader sent to Julia Gillard, after we asked readers to respond to Agnes Nieuwenhuizen’s article in The Age, 12th Jan 2008.
Letter sent to Minister 16 Jan
I hope that you will be receiving many copies of this article to highlight to you the importance of reading and good libraries to develop a literate community and the dire need for adequate funding to run reader programs for all age groups.
I have been involved in reading activities to encourage a family culture of reading for many years. In her article, Ms Nieuwenhuizen mentions a number of programs and activities to help develop a literate and clever country. Let me add another – the national public libraries’ reading program, the Summer Reading Club http://www.summerreadingclub.org.au.
The economic value of the school holiday program
Holiday programs, which promote reading rather than performances or activities, play an important role in the education of the state’s children. Many studies have shown that, during school holidays, especially during the long summer holidays, children lose reading skills and have to spend the first two months of the year relearning skills they had prior to the holidays. In homes that do not have a reading culture or strong parental literacy skills, this produces a significant loss of literacy skills.
Using a formula based on the work of Steve Brown, and an approximate cost of the average daily attendance in grades K-12 of $9,000, and with 1/9 of the year spent revising, the cost of this revision is approximately $1000 per child. In my own library last year, 293 children registered for the literacy-based activities. Using the formula above, this program saved the local education system $293,000.
Reinforcing the value of reading programs, a KPMG study in Britain showed that the “every Child a Reader scheme could offer a return of more than £17 in the next 31 years for every £1 spent now.”
There are many similar programs for differing ages across the country. The vast majority are inadequately funded. Many towns and schools have no professional staff in their libraries. Please fund literacy/reading programs.
Brown, Steve “What’s a summer worth?” in Texas Library Journal Summer 2005 pp 16-17
“Reading scheme saves taxpayer” BBC News 11 December 2006 available at