By Vanessa Watson
The Sydney Writers’ Festival will present the first Children’s Festival of Moving Stories across western Sydney from November 14, with events to instil a love of reading and imagination in even the most reluctant kids and parents alike.
The festival will feature big names from children’s literature includingPossum Magic author Mem Fox, Morris Gleitzman and children’s book illustrator Tony Flowers.
The Children’s Author Roadshow will see a series of free events at schools and libraries across western Sydney, including Parramatta City Library, The Whitlam Library Cabramatta, Liverpool City Library, Penrith City Library, Bankstown City Library and Knowledge Centre and Blacktown City Library.
Russ the Travelling Story Bus will also stop at schools in Parramatta, Blacktown, Rooty Hill and Penrith.
‘‘CHILDREN WON’T EVER BE READING TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD IN HIGH SCHOOL IF THEY DON’T FIND BOOKS THAT ENGAGE THEM IN KINDERGARTEN.’’
Decorated by Flowers and stacked with books to swap with your own second-hand books, Russ will appear at Riverside Theatres on November 28 from 12pm-8pm during Stories from the Pyjamaverse, which will feature interactive storytime sessions with authors like Gleitzman and Will Kostakis, Playschool’s Michelle Lim Davidson, the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Parramatta Eels.
Stories will be read aloud as Flowers brings the narratives alive through live illustrations on stage.
Flowers, who also teaches art and design at the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE’s Kingswood campus, said his aim was to create live drawings as ”silly” and as entertaining as possible for his young audience members on the night, including for ”reluctant readers”.
‘‘Children won’t ever be reading To Kill a Mockingbird in high school if they don’t find books that engage them in kindergarten.’’
Fox, who will present an adults’ talk on December 4, said it was vital to read to babies, even in their first weeks of life, to engage them with ‘‘rhyme, repetition and the warm presence of a loved human being’’.
‘‘The brain is being stimulated in all sorts of wonderful ways and the child is becoming more clever, the child knows it’s loved,’’ Ms Fox said.
‘‘You have to start [reading to children] before they even know that it’s happening,” she said. ”Reading is just the most beautiful thing to do, it’s a happy and a loving thing to do.”
Sydney Writers’ Festival head of children’s programs Jeanmarie Morosin said the packed program was a direct response to a ‘‘hunger all across western Sydney for really good literary events’’ for children.
‘‘Given that the majority of kids in the state are in western Sydney, it made sense,’’ Ms Morovin said.
‘‘It’s important to engage kids with a love of reading and storytelling very early because it sets them up for the rest of their lives.’’
Asked for her advice for authors hoping to carve a niche in children’s literature, Mem Fox said: ”Every writer says this to anyone that wants to write – you can’t be a writer unless you’ve been a reader, and you have to read widely in the field that you want to write in.”
She listed several works with ”perfect” rhythm, including Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, the King James version of the Bible and the first par of The Grapes of Wrath.