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The Book of the Nation

By Paula Kelly - posted Tuesday, 19 June 2012

In the designated National Year of Reading, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Year Book features two articles that highlight the worrying statistics behind the level of literacy in Australia. The Year Book Australia’s key themes include the Australian Year of the Farmer and the International Year of the Co-operative.

As the flagship publication of the ABS, the Year Book carries forward its reputation as one of the best single reference works in Australia. According to Australian Statistician, Brian Pink: ‘The Year Book presents statistics in a relevant and interesting way, statistics that can be used and understood by everyone - in all walks of life. Decision-makers, the education sector, journalists and researchers will all benefit from this highly informative summary of Australian Life’.

Interesting parallels and intersections can be drawn between the focus of our nation of its two themes for 2012 – the National Year of the Reading and the National Year of the Farmer. The description of our modern farmer highlighting need to be literate is noted by Brian Pink, ‘…in order to remain competitive in an international environment, a farmer is more likely to be found with a laptop and sophisticated farming equipment, is more than twice as likely to have a degree as they were just a single generation ago and over two-thirds of farm businesses now use the internet for business operations’.


Nearly half the population struggles without the literacy skills to meet the most basic demands of everyday life and work. These Australians: can't read newspapers; follow a recipe; make sense of timetables; or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle. In fact 46 per cent of Australian’s do not meet Level three literacy standards according to the Adult Life Skills Survey conducted in 2006. It was this survey conducted by the ABS that prompted Australia’s librarians to consider the importance of creating a National Year of Reading. Since, as Brian Pink highlights, literacy is “… a basic prerequisite for full participation in Australian society”, this is a worrying national situation.

Australia's libraries and library associations, via the National Year of Reading are actively promoting the goal of a literate Australia through their championing of the National Year of Reading 2012. The National Year of Reading has three main goals, and as National Year of Reading Ambassador Libby Gleeson has noted, this includes ‘the desire for readers to be curious, to play with ideas, challenge views and imagine alternatives’. This is about reading for pleasure, information and critical thinking not just about promoting literacy in its basic form.

The shared goals that have been identified to support turning Australia into a national of readers are: For all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and a catalyst for well-being;to promote a reading culture in every home; andto establish an aspirational goal for families, of parents and caregivers sharing books with their children every day.

Libraries, bookshops, schools, businesses and governments have joined together to create a heap of amazing, fun, reading activities taking place around Australia within towns and cities and with online communities, so people of all ages, from different backgrounds, and different access points can discover and rediscover the joy of reading.

The national campaign includes a focus on children as well as adults and several nation-wide activities have captured the country’s imagination and engagement. These include One Country Reading identifying favorite reads from each state and territory for adults, children and teens, a workplace literacy development project and a national library membership drive.

The Australian Year Book can be viewed for free at hard copies can be purchased for $50 each (including postage and handling) from the websiteor by calling 1300 135 070. For more information on the National Year of Reading or to find out how to get involved go to:

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About the Author

Paula Kelly works at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne and is Reader Development Manager at the State Library of Victoria.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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