Feature Week 28: The Reading Hour
In week 28 of the National Year of Reading, we continue our focus on children's authors as we celebrate Children's Book Week and The Reading Hour. We feature Susanne Gervay and our junior ambassadors Daniel and William Clarke.
Susanne's parents arrived in Australia from Hungary as post WWII refugees and settled in Sydney. This family background has significantly influenced Susanne and the books she writes for children, teens and young adults.
Susanne is the author of nine books and contributes to many literary journals and anthologies. Her books deal with real life issues faced by kids and teenagers today including bullying, illness, death, refugees, friendships and family issues such as divorce. Many organisations including Room to Read, Life Education Australia and The Alannah & Madeleine Foundation endorse Susanne's books. She is the recipient of the Order of Australia for her services to the community.
Her 'I am Jack' series, inspired by her son, deals with the issues surrounding bullying. The Monkey Baa Youth Theatre has produced a stage adaptation of 'I am Jack'. The following trailer gives us an insight into this series:
Butterflies is a moving book about surviving burn injuries.
Susanne's latest book, 'Ships in the field' shares the experience of war and migration to Australia through the eyes of a child.
Susanne's thoughts on reading and the National Year of Reading
Love the National Year of Reading 2012. As an author ambassador for Room to Read, Role Model for Books in Homes, Patron of Monkey Baa Theatre, head of Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Australia East and New Zealand, former Chair of the Board of the NSW Writers Centre and Australia Day Ambassador, the National Year of Reading connects my favourite organisations. It's about celebrating reading and inviting everyone to discover and rediscover the 'fantastic-ness' of books so that Australia becomes a nation of readers.
Out and about for NYR
Susanne is being kept busy this year helping to promote and support the National Year of Reading. Here are just a few pictures taken at events she has attended:
Susanne's reading habits
- Which book is by your bedside right now?
'Trust me too' an anthology edited by National Year of Reading friend, Paul Collins with 58 of Australia's most loved authors and illustrators covering most genres. When I'm madly busy, which is most of the time, it's a treat to be able to grab a great short story. 'Alien shores' is also beside my bed where 9 Indian and 9 Australian authors (including a story I wrote on Timor Leste) wrote about a refugee world - funny, sad, real, imagined stories - in narrative fiction. I leave novels for my holiday reading.
- What's your perfect holiday read?
I love a novel that emotionally engages me and where I can't wait to finish it. It makes me cry and laugh and think. I like to think about it afterwards and talk about it. I'm hanging out to read Anna Funder's new book.
- How do you get hold of books? I go to a lot of author events and launches and I always buy a book there. It's exciting to have the author sign it.
- Do you have lots of books on the go at once, or just one?
Lots of books, although I'd prefer just one. I get side tracked and start one, start another, then another and end up reading three books at the same time - currently reading 'Love notes from Vinegar House' by Karen Tayleur; 'Dare to dream' poetry anthology edited by Jill Corcoran; and Izzeldin Abuelaish's 'I shall not hate'.
- Do you skim the boring bits or read every word? Definitely skim. I become engrossed by the story and can't stand being slowed down by tracks of tedious description that slows the pace. Description is supposed to advance the narrative, enrich the themes and engage you in the character. However some books just lose pace.
- At what point do you give up on a book? If by the time I have gone quarter the way through a book, it's still not engaging me, it gets dumped.
- Was your family a reading family?
My parents were Hungarian and spoke English as a second language. However that didn't impact on their reading. My father in particular was a great reader, even when he started his life in Australia as a refugee working in the Holden car factory. He always read. Initially he read Hungarian books, but he enjoyed books written in English, from Thomas Keneally's 'Schindler's List' to many history books to my first year economics text book.
- Did you like to read as a child? I couldn't have survived without reading as a child. Sometimes life gets confusing and it was hard when my parents worked such long hours. Books were safe places to explore, sometimes hide, always imagine and find friends. My mother would take me and my sister every week to the mobile library and I borrowed 4 books each week. It was like a treasure. What was inside them?
- Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre'. I discovered it at fourteen and read it so many times. It always held more and more meaning each time I read it. Jane was a true heroine, who despite being unloved by her family, fought adversity while holding onto values and heart. She fell in love with Mr Rochester. He wasn't handsome like Mr Rivers who admired Jane for her capacity to serve God. However Mr Rochester with all his grand flaws and mistakes, was the passionate tragic hero. A true love story. Makes me want to read it again.
- Do you use your local public library?
I love my local library in Woollahra. Only small, it's the library that I grew up with, visited, took my children to, researched the literary journals at the beginning of my life as a writer, launched my beautiful picture book 'Ships in the field' at. Woollahra Library looks out over the beautiful Blackburn Gardens on Sydney Harbour foreshores. Just like paradise on a beautifully sunny day.
Susanne's favourite reads
'To kill a mockingbird' by Harper Lee reached deep into my value system. It revealed true courage, values, leadership, exposing the injustice of racism. Atticus Finch symbolised my father who I always regarded as a quiet hero like Atticus.
'Sons and lovers' by D.H.Lawrence drew me into the emotional vortex of mother-son love; girl-boy love. The incredible power of love revealed the fine line between sons and lovers with its devastating capacity to destroy the son and the boy. It became a pathway to my journey of understanding independence.
'The boy in the striped pyjamas' by John Boyne is a small book, it is not small. It is a fable about little Nazi boy called Bruno who makes friends with a little Jewish boy called Shmuel on the other side of the concentration camp fence. There are deep stories within this small boo revealing the destruction of racism and war, the outcome of a world without moral responsibility and the redemptive power of friendship.
Here's just two of the organisations Susanne works with:
- Room to Read
Susanne is an ambassador for Room to Read, a National Year of Reading partner, that aims to bring books and education to the world's most needy on order to break cycles of poverty and create opportunity for kids where previously there were very little, if any. In ten short years they have built 1556 schools, 13152 libraries, published 707 local language books, distributed 11.5 million books and benefited 6.7 million children.
You might be interested in helping fellow National Year of Reading ambassador Tristan Bancks raise funds to build a Room to Read library in Cambodia.
- Book in Homes
Books in Homes provides books to families and children living in remote and low socio-economic circumstances, ensuring crucial early literacy engagement and the development of reading skills needed for lifelong success. Books in Homes are a National Year of Reading partner, and Susanne is proud to be one of their role models.
- To read more about Susanne, take a look at her website, blog, facebook and twitter connections:
- You might also be interested in taking a look at our other featured ambassadors for this week, Daniel and William Clarke:
- If you want to see the other National Year of Reading ambassadors, go to our ambassadors page.
- Other featured ambassadors can be found on the ambassador feature week listing.
Children's Book Week
National Year of Reading partner, the Children's Book Council of Australia celebrates the 67th Children's Book Week from 18 - 24 August. This year's theme year is 'Champions Read'. They encourage us all to spend a week celebrating books and Australian authors and illustrators, and highlight the importance of reading.
We congratulate all the winners of the 2012 Book of the Year Awards, particularly our National Year of Reading ambassadors, Jackie French, Nick Bland, Alison Lester and Anh Do. A list of the winners can be found on the CBCA website.
The Reading Hour
We continue the celebration of reading with The Reading Hour on Saturday 25 August. Encouraging everyone to read and especially sharing books with our children for 10 minutes a day, an hour a week is the message for The Reading Hour.
We know it's not always possible for parents to share a book at bedtime with their children, but if you can manage 10 minutes most nights, your child will have the best chance of becoming a good reader, with all the social and educational benefits that brings.
Take a look at this wonderful video produced by Disney Junior in support of The Reading Hour:
The Reading Hour is for everyone and events for all age groups will be held around Australia on August 25th 2012, and in the weeks before and after. Visit your local library or bookstore to find out what events and activities are taking place, or check our events calendar:
Want more information about The Reading Hour?