Tag: Australian children’s books

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Last year, Australian children’s authors joined many other Australian book-lovers to fight against the proposed lifting of Restrictions against Parallel Importation of books into this country. That fight was successful.

But now, there is another threat to Australian children’s books. And this is worse – because it comes from within and it is insidious.

Children’s books are gradually disappearing from the shelves of school libraries. Why? Because those libraries are in crisis. They are disappearing, along with trained Teacher-Librarians.

It has been going for over a decade. Education Departments of State and Federal Governments of both political persuasions have allowed the whittling away of resources, staffing and funding for over ten years.

Many school libraries have become Resource Centres full of computers and set up for teaching with desks, chairs and whiteboards – space that was once shelving for fiction collections.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite. I use computers daily for research, communication and contact. Of course there is a place for computer research and writing in school libraries, but not at the expense of losing story books.

Some school principals say books can be bought as e-books so they throw out their collections. But there are many thousands of brilliantly-written books that cannot be replaced as e-books. Children will never have the chance to thrill, enjoy and learn about life from those fictional characters.

School-librarians are trained to teach and enthuse children about books and about reading. They are the ones who read book reviews. They know when great books are published. They have the skills to enthuse children and guide them in their book choice.

I have great respect for the trials of teaching Phys Ed, and yes, I know I am generalising here – but would your school’s Phys Ed teacher be comfortable recommending a book to your 15 year-old? I know our school’s PE teacher would have run a mile – the other way. But I have heard on the education grapevine that teachers are being seconded from other areas to cover the deliberate loss of the Teacher/Librarian.

Yes, I am a children’s author and yes, I have an ulterior motive in pushing this particular barrow. I love Australian children’s books to death, and I will do anything I can to promote them to Australian children, including my own (books, that is).

We authors owe a huge gratitude to Australian school librarians and public librarians – they are like the forward troops in any battle, the foot soldiers, and maybe the engineers. They prepare the ground by encouraging and enthusing children to read. They invite children’s authors into their schools to talk to children. They use their depleting funds to buy books. They have the skills to integrate literature into every subject area, even Phys. Ed.

Authors benefit from this, by book sales and from paid school and library visits. I encourage Australian children’s authors to write to their State and Federal Government’s Member of Parliament and their Education Ministers about the ever-decreasing funds for school libraries; and to question the lack of school Teacher-Librarians.

Support organisations like Friends of The Hub – Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia. This site provides sample protest letters which you can adjust to suit your State.

My home town, Brisbane, will host the INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL LIBRARY CONFERENCE on 27th September – 1st October 2010.  It is jointly hosted by the School Library Association of Queensland and the International Association of School Librarianship. Brisbane children’s authors will also be involved.

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Onwards and upwards ‘Princess Clown’

There is something to be said for perseverance and a belief that if you have a good story to tell it will find a home eventually.

So it has been for my PRINCESS CLOWN – a short chapter book for 7-8 year olds.

This year Princess Clown won Second Prize in the CYA Writing Conference competition. And now, Blake Publishing want to publish it in their new set of Gigglers Blue children’s fiction in the new year. There are usually 8 books in the pack, although they can be bought as singles, and the pack comes with a Teachers’ Guide and audio CD/Tapes.

Gigglers are humorous stories that motivate even the most reluctant reader. Gigglers have full colour illustrations which bring these funny stories to life. Gigglers situations can be realistic or fantasy, although stories should still maintain some links to familiar situations.

Blake are an educational publisher rather than a trade publisher (my other junior fiction was with a trade publisher, Lothian books).

The best thing about the Gigglers series is they are popular in schools – the kids can’t get enough of them.

So I feel very honoured to be part of the new set of Gigglers and thrilled that Australian (and maybe from overseas as well) children will soon be giggling at the antics of Belle, a princess who’d much rather make people laugh.

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VICTORY IS OURS!

David & Sheryl 1 crop vig1
Aussie children's books rule!

Just like no one likes a sore loser, no one likes a cocky winner! But, allow me the relief a good shout of victory brings.

We have won our battle against Parallel Importation of Books in a resounding victory – this morning the ALP Cabinet and Caucus decided not to follow the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to scrap them.

Many in the publishing industry have been part of this battle, and we at the SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS blog campaign have been bouyed by the support we’ve received from Australian book lovers, including teachers, librarians, parents and grandparents.

The SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS campaign began last June in reaction to the pro-Parallel Imports push by some booksellers and the Productivity Commission.

We were mainly children’s authors in the SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS blog group and our main concern was the future threat to the integrity of Australian children’s books and their authors and illustrators. See previous blogs on this site.

So, we celebrate our victory for young Australian readers of the future, and hopefully also those from other countries who will have the chance to read authentic Australian books.

Authors can breathe easier, for a while at least, until the next push comes from those who want to change the status quo. There are still many issues the Australian publishing industry must face in the future – like e-bo0ks, and further globalisation. Hopefully, sense will prevail as the industry tackles those challenges.

We long for the day when authors, artists and musicians are valued in this country and we don’t have to rely on royalties of 10% per book (if we’re lucky). Maybe we need what the French are doing?

Now we at Saving Aussie Books campaign can return to stories that need to be written … those indignant manuscripts that sat in files while the battle raged.

NOTE: I’ve talked to lots of people outside the publishing industry about this issue over the past year, and do you know what outraged them the most about the parallel import threat?  It was the threat of Australian children’s books being sold in this country from overseas publishers where  Mum had been changed to Mom .

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My letter to politicians – Parallel Book Importation threat

Dear (Member of Parliament)
Canberra
AUSTRALIA

Re: Productivity Commission’s Report into Parallel Importation of Books into Australia

I am writing to voice my concern at the PC’s recommendations about lifting the Restrictions against Parallel Importation of Books.

I believe this move, if passed by Parliament will do great harm to the Australian publishing industry – not only through the loss of a great number of jobs, but also to the future of Australian books.

There is no guarantee that books will be cheaper under the PC’s recommended abolition of Territorial Copyright laws (even the Productivity Commission admits there is no guarantee of this). What it will do is open our book market up to a flood of foreign imports of editions of Australian books. Not only will it turn Australian publishing houses into the warehouses for their overseas branches, but it will send independent Australian publishing companies to the wall.

Another great concern is the fact that when Australian books are re-published in North America, they are changed to suit the US market. Nowhere is this more pertinent and worrying than that of children’s books – where spelling becomes Americanised, terms and idioms are sanitised, references to Australian places and experiences are deleted. Even the humour is adjusted so American children can understand Aussie humour, or taken out if they don’t.

Now, that might be fine for Australian books being read by American children, and presently these editions are not allowed to be sold in Australian bookshops. But if the Parallel Import restrictions are lifted the American editions will become available in Australia. Children will be exposed to two versions of spelling at an age when they need hardly run the risk of literacy difficulties. Parents won’t know if their children are reading the true-blue Australian version or the pale, facsimiled American one, unless they know to look behind the cover.

I believe it is vital for Australia’s future as a nation that its children grow up with a firm grounding in the written language and the stories of their own country.

I hope the Australian Government will consider carefully the multitudes of submissions from committed people who believe in our viable publishing industry and the future of our unique Australian stories, and decide not to follow the Productivity Commissions’s recommendation to abolish restrictions on Parallel Importation of books.

Yours sincerely
Sheryl Gwyther – author

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