Aussies are great donators. Per head of population we support more charities than any other country.
Authors are often asked to donate books. And we do. It is often obvious that the person requesting the donation believes we get our books ‘for free’. Publishers will give an author ten copies of their latest book to use as promotion. The rest we buy ourselves, though at a small discount. Not only must we pay for the book, but the added cost of postage. It’s also painfully obvious that too many people believe writers earn millions (like the Harry Potter series) and can afford to support every charity because after all, we write for kids and therefore we are ‘nice’. We are also expected to talk and work with kids for free, because we are so ‘nice’.
Which brings me to why sometimes we go along with this. It’s because we believe that all children should enjoy reading. Not only for the pleasure a well written book will give them but because reading cultivates imagination. Without that part of the brain extending and growing, potential in almost every area becomes stultified.
I am always amazed at how many households don’t own books. Or if they do, they are usually not the kind of book that will attract a young reader. Parents complain that their children aren’t reading. But if I ask them if they read themselves, they tell me they don’t have time. Yet they might spend hours on their mobiles or watching TV. Youngsters learn by example, and if they don’t see their parents reading, they don’t see what’s in it for them.
Fortunately there are organizations determined to overcome some of these liabilities. Last week I visited a small school on the Mornington Peninsula as a representative of ‘Books In Homes’. This is an area where many families have been out of work for generations and there are no books. ‘Books in Homes’ arranges that each child is given a small bag with their name printed on it containing three books, these aimed at the child’s reading age.
My other favourite is the ‘Children’s Charity Network’, a group that through a massive network of donations allows children from all over Australia to enter their stories, poems, illustrations and photos to a magazine published four times a year. The children with the best entries are flown to Melbourne to with their families attend a celebratory dinner.