Feature Week 29: Adult Learners' Week
As we approach Adult Learners' Week, who better to highlight in week 29 of the National Year of Reading, than Mr Dick Adams, the Federal Member for Lyons in Tasmania who learnt to read and write as an adult.
Dick Adams was born in Tasmania and counts convicts on the second fleet to arrive in Tasmania as his ancestors. He grew up on a dairy farm and went on to work as a shearer, in meat works and on farms.
When he left school, Dick was nearly illiterate and had to work hard as an adult to learn to read and write. It took him four years of study to reach an acceptable level that enabled him to carry out his role as a union organiser. He has served as a member of the Tasmanian Parliament and was first elected to the House of Representatives in Federal Parliament in 1993 where he represents the Tasmanian electorate of Lyons.
Having learnt to read and write as an adult, he is a keen advocate for adult literacy programs and is Patron and Life Member of the Tasmanian Council for Adult Literacy. As a strong supporter of libraries, Dick is the House of Representatives representative on the Board of the National Library of Australia as well as being Joint Chair of the House Committee on the Parliamentary Library.
Dick's thoughts on reading and the National Year of Reading
Since becoming an Ambassador for the National Year of Reading, I have been approached by many primary and secondary schools (both in and outside my electorate of Lyons in Tasmania) to visit and talk to students about the importance of literacy. I am really enjoying these visits and am constantly amazed at some of the questions the children ask.
Recently I received an email from a young man in his twenties from New South Wales, asking how I learned to read and seeking advice on who to contact to get assistance. The National Year of Reading has certainly highlighted issues of literacy in the community which hopefully will help assist all those who have reading difficulties.
Out and about for NYR
Dick has been very busy throughout the National Year of Reading, often visiting a couple of schools, kindergartens and day care centres in his electorate and beyond each week, to talk about the importance of reading and lifelong learning.
Here's what students from Our Lady of Lourdes School in Devonport had to say about their special visitor:
"Recently, the Grades 5 and 6 classes invited Mr Dick Adams MHR to speak about the experiences that led him to learn to read and ultimately acquire a love of reading. We learnt that, as a student at school, Mr Adams struggled with literacy, although he was quite good at Maths. It was not until after he left school and had tried a number of jobs that he saw the need to read, so he spent countless hours having a friend tutor him until he became much better at reading....One of the important messages was that it's never too late to learn to read. Another was to keep going and never give up."
Dick's reading habits
- What's the book you've read most often?
'The complete works of Henry Lawson.'
- Which book is by your bedside right now?
'Empire: how Britain made the modern world' by Niall Ferguson.Niall Ferguson's 'Empire' is one of the most successful and controversial history books of recent years. Brilliantly re-telling the story of Britain's imperial past, it shows how a gang of buccaneers and gold-diggers from a rainy island in the North Atlantic came to build the most powerful empire in all history, how it ended, and how - for better or worse - it made our world what it is today.
- What was the last book you borrowed from your public library?
'In search of Kazakhstan: the land that disappeared', by Christopher RobbinsWritten in 2007 and drawing much upon the author's conversations with President Nursultan Nazarbayev who saw Kazakhstan through the transition from Soviet Socialist Republic (exploited as a land for gulags, Kolkhoz and nuclear weapons testing) to an oil/gas-rich independent nation with hope for the future.
- What was the last book you received as a gift?
'The happiest refugee' by Anh DoThe Happiest Refugee tells the incredible, uplifting and inspiring life story of Anh Do, one of Australia's best loved comedians, and fellow National Year of Reading ambassador.
- Was your family a reading family? No.
- Did you like to read as a child? No.
- Do you remember learning to read? When I left school I was nearly illiterate. In those days there was very little help for illiterate people or those trying to improve their basic education as an adult. I found someone willing to help and for four years I sat at her kitchen table after work and worked on my reading and writing.
- Where's the strangest place you have ever read? In a light aircraft during a severe storm. I was so frightened I had to do something - so what better than read.
Dick's favourite reads
The first book I ever bought was a book of poetry when I was working in south-western Queensland as a wool presser. I had been elected as a shop steward. The book of poetry that I bought was by Henry Lawson. His poetry certainly gave me inspiration to build on my passion for the trade union movement and, of course, developed an interest within me for endeavouring to work through the trade union movement for better working conditions, decent wages, and a better way of life for working people. It still inspires me. Lawson understood those who built a good life out of very little, and still had enormous satisfaction with it. Those values are my values; those people are my people.
I would like to quote from a poem written by Lawson in 1892,'A prouder man than you'
If you fancy that your people came of better stock than mine,
If you hint of higher breeding by a word or by a sign
If you're proud because of fortune of the clever things you do -
Then I'll play no second fiddle: I'm a prouder man than you!
If you think that your profession has the more gentility
And that you are condescending to be seen along with me;
If you notice that I'm shabby while your clothes are spruce and new -
You have only got to hint it: I'm a prouder man than you!
Keep your patronage for others! Gold and station cannot hide
Friendship that can laugh at fortune, friendship that can conquer pride!
Offer this as to an equal - let me see that you are true,
And my wall of pride is shattered: I am not so proud as you!
'How the Irish saved civilization', by Thomas Cahill
Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Europe evolved from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era. Without Ireland, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization - copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost - they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task.
Adult Learners' Week
1-8 September is Adult Learners' Week, a celebration of lifelong learning. The theme for 2012 is 'Digital literacy: connecting and learning through technology'. The following clip promotes Adult Learners' Week and essential digital literacy skills for all Australians
For more information about Adult Learners' Week, take a look at the following websites:
People's Choice: "It's never too late...to learn to read" Writing Competition.
'It's never too late...to learn to read' was a short story competition for unpublished, emerging and established Australian writers held as part of the National Year of Reading Adult Learners' Week Celebrations, in partnership with the Tasmanian Writers' Centre.
Readers now have a chance to vote for their favourite story from the competition.
To read the stories and vote for your favourite, visit our website:
If you know someone who is struggling with their reading, take a look at the National Year of Reading website where we have listed a range of helpful resources: