National Indigenous Literacy Day will be celebrated with a special event at the Queensland State Library on Wednesday.
Ms Suzy Wilson, founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, along with the foundation’s patron the Honourable Quentin Bryce, will be at the Queensland State Library to chair the event.
Two Ways Strong, a book written by Indigenous students from Concordia Lutheran College in Toowoomba, will be launched at the event.
It tells the story of young women leaving their community to go boarding school, while exploring the nuances of living between two worlds.
“I’m really excited about the book, because these students are extraordinary, they’ve written the best story… and it’s quite a special and unique perspective that they put forward, no one has ever done this before,” Ms Wilson said.
Ms Wilson, an educator and owner of Riverbend Books for 19 years, says it was her lifelong passion for literacy, and the way people acquire the skills that lead to her founding the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) in 2004.
The ILF, a project that operates in 230 remote communities, and has published 66 books in Indigenous language, was founded with the hope of inspiriting communities to tell their stories, through culturally appropriate language.
“When I heard the terrible stats about literacy levels in remote Indigenous communities I thought, how come I didn’t know as a teacher, a parent, a bookshop owner, how come I didn’t know that this was happening in our remote communities,” Ms Wilson said.
“The figures I was hearing were third world statistics, and we’re a first world country, how could this possible be?”
While Ms Wilson says complex challenges exist in the endeavour to Close the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous literacy levels, she identifies what she calls the problem of cultural illiteracy.
“I think if a child is handed a book in English, that is what I might call a very white book, that doesn’t relate to their world terribly much… it’s hard for them to be interested and it’s doesn’t actually mean that much,” Ms Wilson said.
“The vast difference of being able to see them with a culturally inappropriate book versus one that they’ve been part of, I just can’t tell you the difference, it’s extraordinary.”
Riverbend Books will also be hosting a Great Book Swap from Wednesday – Friday (7-9 September) for anyone who can’t attend the event on the Wednesday, but would like to bring a book to swap from a special collection at the store with a gold coin donation.