Books in Homes - Interview (May 2019)
How did Books in Homes get started?
Books in Homes was originally founded by New Zealand author, Alan Duff, who wrote the widely acclaimed book Once Were Warriors (1990), which was later made into an award-winning film. Alan was inspired to create the Program in 1993 after a visit to a New Zealand primary school where he discovered the majority of children came from bookless homes and showed little or no interest in reading. Alan saw this as having a major negative impact on their educational, social, personal and professional development later in life. As a consequence, Alan created Duffy Books in Homes on the premise that book ownership would prompt a love of books and reading, and that having a home library would create the opportunity to share books with siblings and strengthen family bonds. Duffy Books in Homes New Zealand was officially formed in 1995, and has since gone on to distribute 12 million books to over 100,000 students participating from 530 schools, 280 childcare centres and more than 200 sponsors and donors in 2017. Not content to rest on his laurels, Alan Duff visited Australia in 2001 and helped create Books in Homes Australia as well. As of 2018, and through the generous support of sponsors, donors and funding bodies, the tally stands at over 2.5 million books distributed across Australia through the Books in Homes Program!
What are Books in Homes goals?
Books in Homes Australia is a charitable foundation that provides books of choice to children living in remote, disadvantaged and low socio-economic circumstances, ensuring crucial early literacy engagement and the development of reading skills needed for lifelong achievement. The program aims to overcome the inequality of educational opportunities in communities where access to books for families is limited or non-existent and resources are often scarce. In doing so, the program contributes to helping overcome generational poverty by enhancing the chances of success in early education thereby opening up options, choices and potential in later life.
Books in Homes Australia’s vision is to create an Australia where every child and family has access to books in the home.
Tell us about the programs initiated by Books in Homes.
Books in Homes offers three Programs during Terms 1, 2 and 4 every year. They are: Primary Program, Preschool Program, and Early Childhood Program.
The Programs aim to:
- Improve literacy and reading skills for a better education whilst simultaneously normalising reading as an everyday activity or pastime
- Involve the family in reading and building a home library for all to share
- Give children the pride of ownership and choice, and empower children to choose books they WANT to read rather than the books they are told to read
- Foster self-driven learning through a connection to books and reading
- Develop children’s creativity and imagination
- Give children a better start in order to open up choices and opportunities in later life
- Encourage children to engage with their school and families to engage with their community.
Books in Homes believes that reading is the gateway to education, and education is the key to opportunity and prosperity. Accordingly, each child on the Program receives the following over a year:
- Nine Books-of-Choice
- Nine Book Labels
- Three Book Bags, and
- Three Book Catalogues.
In addition, primary schools receive 144 books which are integrated into their school libraries, and extra Caught Being Good books and certificates to reward children for improvement in attendance, citizenship, improvement in reading, and more. Childcare centres and communities, as well as preschools, receive 36 books per year which they get to keep.
How are your Role Models selected?
Many of the Books in Homes Role Models are children’s authors, illustrators and storytellers. Others come from all walks of life. They include: Aboriginal Elders, comic book creators and graphic novelists, professional athletes, performers, celebrities, journalists, firefighters and other emergency services personnel, illusionists, accountants, and many others who represent a multitude of professions.
Some Role Models approach us about being on the Program because they’ve heard about Books in Homes from their friends and colleagues or via social media or another platform, and other times we approach them, especially if we have no Role Models on our database that live within the vicinity of a school or centre on the Program.
What is the responsibility of a Role Model once chosen?
A volunteer Role Model’s would usually commit to a one hour Book Giving Assembly in Term 1, 2 and 4 of the school year plus travel time. At the Book Giving Assembly the Role Model would do a presentation such as a reading, performance, live sketching or a speech for about ten minutes to inspire the children but also to help them aspire. The Role Model and the Sponsor’s representatives for each school would then hand out the book bags to the children, and also reinforce the Books in Homes motto… “Read to succeed!”
Tell us about your all-important Book Selection Committee?
The Books in Homes Book Selection Committee is made up of a panel of volunteer educational and literary experts. The committee meets three times a year to ensure the books on the Program are both educational and enjoyable. Our distribution partner Scholastic Australia presents the Committee with an extensive list of 72 titles that is gradually whittled down to 48 books for each term’s Preview Pack. It is a prerequisite that 25% of titles on the Program be either written or illustrated by Indigenous creators.
You can meet the Book Selection Committee members here: www.booksinhomes.com.au/supporters/book-selection-committee
How is Books in Homes funded?
There are four ways for schools, centres and communities to join the Books in Homes Program: corporate sponsorship, self-funding, fund-raising and grants. Books in Homes also accepts donations via our fund-raising portal at GiveNow, which is used to raise funds for schools in need and specific regional campaigns and to support specific projects or initiatives. The Books in Homes Fundraising Appeal can be found here: www.givenow.com.au/booksinhomes
How can people get involved with the Books in Homes?
People can contribute in a number of different ways, including: sponsoring, donating, fund-raising, volunteering or subscribing to our monthly ezine THE BRIDGE. You can find out more at: www.booksinhomes.com.au/get-involved