“The Writers’ Festival is a really readers’ festival; it is a place and opportunity given to us to get together to talk about one of the greatest pleasures – a love of reading,” says novelist and UTS academic Debra Adelaide.
The Simple Act of Reading, edited by Dr Adelaide, is a collection of 21 essays written by different writers including Anita Heiss, Andy Griffiths, David Malouf, Malcolm Knox, Joan London, Luke Davies, Cath Keenan and Sunil Badami. The intention behind the book was the topic of discussion at the Festival between Debra Adelaide, Cath Keenan, Sunil Badami and members of the audience.
“I am a book lover. My occupation led me to read and write but I am not a professional writer. I came to this session to perhaps learn to read more deeply,” said audience member Dr John O’Brien, of Sydney University.
Three quarters of Australia’s adult population read for pleasure every day or most days of the week while 10 per cent choose to buy a book on the basis that it is by an Australian author, according to a 2014 report conducted by ACNielsen for Books Alive which is supported by the Federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.
However, according to the report, reading meets different needs in different people – men are more likely to read for learning, information, knowledge and interest while women emphasise the relaxation and escape found in reading.
While around 17 per cent of those surveyed described themselves as reluctant readers, saying they did not like reading, felt it requires too much concentration and they do not like bookstores, three out of four parents of children under 13 said they had read to their children during the previous seven days. Reading to children is strongly influenced by the parents’ own attitude.
Writer and broadcaster Sunil Badami said he likes to read to his children. He said he remembers his mother read to him from The Jungle Book to teach him to read. Later a story in a magazine about a French boy captured his imagination. He said he fell into a trance reading it, and that he read it all afternoon and through the night. “When I finished it, I realised I had become a reader.”
Cath Keenan is co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern. The centre’s objective is to develop young people’s creative writing skills and improve their ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings. She said she loved reading as a girl, loved being transported into another world and now she and the team at the Sydney Story Factory work to allow students find their own voice.
Sunil said the one thing he loved about reading was there are no rules. He said he does not care about whether the writer is female, Indian-Australian, male, he simply wants the writing “to speak to him”.