At the start of this year’s Writer’s Festival, South Australia’s Commissioner for Children and Young People brought 100 South Australian children together to celebrate children’s reading, writing and creativity at her inaugural ‘Children’s Stories’ event.

Presented in partnership with the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation and the Children’s University Adelaide the children came together for a day of activities that were focussed on connecting them with the benefits of libraries, while simultaneously unlocking their creative storytelling capabilities to help build their confidence in their own reading, writing and drawing skills.

Joining Commissioner Connolly in the historic Mortlock Wing of the State Library was Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky. Ursula worked closely with South Australian author and illustrator Andrew Joyner, to lead the children aged 8-12 years through a creative storytelling exercise that had them writing and illustrating their own creative stories in no time!

Earlier in the day the Commissioner had asked the children to think about what the word ‘imagination’ means to them, and what ideas they had for how to make reading more appealing to other children their age, with some terrific responses made.

Imagination means “…that your brain is painting what you’re thinking!” 
“Reading can grow a ‘knowledge plant’ in your mind.”

“The energy in the room throughout the day was fantastic”, said Commissioner Connolly. “Some of the children attending had never been inside the State Library’s Mortlock Room, let alone had a chance to meet and be guided by a Childen’s Laureate! Even after lunch the children were so engaged with the activities that when it came to writing their own stories, they had ideas bubbling up all over the place. I can’t wait to read some of their short stories.”

A group of seven students from St Aloysius’ College Writers Group, volunteered their time and energy to help facilitate the workshop style event. They were really excited to be involved with the event and were keen to see what the children would come up with.

Young Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna man, Isaac Hannam, welcomed the children to country and emphasised how important the tradition of storytelling is within Aboriginal culture, including how stories are handed down from generation to generation and illustrated through Aboriginal music and dance, as well as through drawings and paintings. 

A group of young ‘Inspiration Speakers’ moved amongst the children to share what they love most about reading and writing, and to provide them with an opportunity to ask questions in small groups. They included spoken word poet and radio host Caitlin Moore; musician and the 2019 SACE Tennyson Award winner Adela Teubner; comedy writer Charlie Kay, creator of St Aloysius Writer’s Group, Juliana Laverde; writer and editor for youth outlet Postup, Aislinn Rossi and Benito Carbone; and Director of Writers SA Jessica Alice.  

When asked how other children could be helped to read more often, one student said she’d like to see “more books with yellow pages in them so that more kids with dyslexia could read them.”

Another said that all school students “should be able to go to a really fun library,” which connected perfectly to the theme of “Read For Your Life” – which Ursula will be emphasising during her two year term as Australia’s Children’s Laureate.

 “My intention over the next two years is to make an inspiring call to children, parents, teachers, everyone, to encourage children to join their local library and get their own library card’, she said.

“To create a generation of readers – readers who will continue to read their whole life long – children need access to a lot of books, all kind of books. More books than any one family, or even a school can ever provide.”

The Commissioner was delighted with the children’s participation and was grateful for the support provided by teachers and parents who enabled them to attend the inaugural event.  

“It had a truly magic atmosphere in the Mortlock – helped by the Hogwarts style environment, yes – but also generated by the enthusiasm and positive energy which so many of these young children brought with them into the room. I can’t wait to read their stories and find out where their imaginations roamed!”

A display of the Children’s Stories will be presented at the University of Adelaide later this year. 

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