More than books

Libraries are more than books - they change lives. The stories below show the impact books, reading and libraries can have on lives.

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Children's Book Council of Australia (ACT Branch) President

Our first recipients of books as Christmas presents were six orphans in the 1960s. Today we continue this legacy of gifting books to disadvantaged children in the Canberra region [through 'the Book Appeal'].

The links between literacy, self-esteem, school performance and adult life chances have been widely documented. (Oberklaid, F. et al. 2004, p. 1-2) For literacy development children require a rich literature environment and access to books.

This appeal increases ownership and access to books for disadvantaged children who enter the doors of Canberra's refuges.

At the beginning of this year, our appeal coordinator shared with me a deeply moving letter, highlighting the influence the gift of a book can have on a child.

"My two year old daughter has completely fallen in love with a book called '10 Play Hide and Seek' that was donated to Inanna at Christmas. She has almost memorised the whole story and reads it to me, instead of me to her. A few days ago when it was really hot and she couldn't sleep I found her in her bedroom acting out the story with all her teddies in bed. It has been great for her confidence and imagination."

As a mother, teacher and librarian I take heart from these words. The child's engagement with the book shows us that she enjoys reading. She demonstrates what she knows about reading. She models the bond that one person shares with another through the experience of sharing a story.

I'd like to thank the donors in advance for the gift of the books which will enrich the lives of many children.

Reference: Oberklaid, F. et al. 2004, 'Reading with young children' Community Paediatric Review vol. 13, no. 1, p. 1-4.

Canberra Fathers and Children Services (CanFaCS)

For the past two Christmases I have had the pleasure of seeing first hand the difference the gift of a book can make to a family who are experiencing homelessness.

Canberra Fathers and Children Services, otherwise known as CanFaCS, provides support to single homeless fathers and their children. CanFaCS provides support by providing crisis accommodation which are short term accommodation properties where fathers who have full time care of their children can stay while they work towards finding a permanent home, outreach support where families are supported to identify and obtain suitable and sustainable accommodation and finally a property called Dad's Place where fathers who have no suitable place to provide overnight care of their children can stay for a few nights at a time on a regular basis at no cost.

For many of these fathers Christmas can be tough. Spending a time like this without a home is hard enough, but the thought of not being able to give their child a gift on Christmas Day can be heartbreaking. I have often worked with fathers who plan to go without food to make sure they have something to give their children on Christmas Day. For the past two years, the Children's Book Council of Australia have ensured that every child and young person who is engaged with CanFaCs receives a book for Christmas by donating over 100 books, each specially chosen for the child by age. The relief that the gift of books provides is invaluable. I'm not sure who gets the greater joy from this donation, the father or the children.

In an age of technology the true value of a book can often be forgotten. For the families we work with it is the ideal gift. It is a gift which can be given to babies, children and young people and equally enjoyed by each. It is a gift which does not need electricity, a big backyard or even a home to enjoy. And it is a gift which provides the opportunity for the father and child to connect. For a child who does not have the stability of a permanent home a book can be one of the few things in their life that is predictable, belongs to them and connects them to the most important thing in their lives, their families.