Last year we saw schools, libraries and community groups around Australia come together for the National Year of Reading 2012. Please read and share this Feature Summary from the National Year of Reading 2012 team to show the powerful influence that the program had in Australia. Posted with permission from Love2Read.
National Year of Reading 2012 Feature Summary
Australian libraries and library associations were the driving force behind a campaign to turn 2012 into the National Year of Reading, linking together all the great things that were already happening around books, reading and literacy, and giving them an extra boost, with inspirational programs and events taking place across the country.
Libraries partnered with government, the media, writers, schools, publishers, booksellers, employers, child care providers, health professionals and a whole host of other organisations that shared our passion for reading.
Our vision was of “Australia, a nation of readers” and our three goals were:
For all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and catalyst for wellbeing
To promote a reading culture in every home
To establish an aspirational goal of sharing a book with your child every day
We purposefully described this as a National Year of Reading, not a National Year of Literacy, but pockets of low literacy around Australia provided our rationale for raising awareness of the importance and benefits of reading. Our killer statistic was the 46% figure we took from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, 2006.
“If your parents read to you when you were very young; if you learnt to read at an early age; if you went to a good school, where reading for pleasure was encouraged, and if you were inspired by the people around you to keep reading as a young adult, then the word on the page (or the screen) will be part of your DNA.
“But that’s not the case for 46% of the population.
“Nearly half the population struggles without the literacy skills to meet the most basic demands of everyday life and work. There are 46% of Australians who can’t read newspapers; follow a recipe; make sense of timetables, or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.
“2012 will see a whole heap of amazing, fun, reading activities taking place around Australia and online, so people of all ages, from different backgrounds, can discover and rediscover the joy of reading.”
Our target audiences varied for different programs within the overall campaign. For One Country Reading we targeted under 12s, teen and adult readers; for the National Year of Reading in the Workplace and Adult Learners’ Week we targeted adults with low literacy; for Dads Read, we targeted parents from low socio-economic groups; for The Reading Hour we especially targeted parents of very young children (0-5); for our Indigenous literacy programs, we targeted people with low literacy in remote communities.
Family literacy was a key target for the National Year of Reading. By giving parents and caregivers the confidence and skills to share books with their children – whether or not they themselves are readers – we knew we could help to break the cycle of disadvantage.
The National Year of Reading 2012 was about children learning to read and keen readers finding new sources of inspiration. It was about supporting reading initiatives while respecting the oral tradition of storytelling. It was about helping people discover and rediscover the magic of books. And most of all, it was about Australians becoming a nation of readers.
The whole campaign was based on a highly consultative, evidence-based approach involving the National Year of Reading founder partners in setting the goals and objectives of the campaign.
While much of the activity happened through partners and at a local level, we ran four national campaigns within the National Year of Reading to create a framework that others could add to.
Campaign 1: The Reading Hour
The Reading Hour (like Earth Hour, but with the lights on!) was both a family commitment and a national event. Sharing a book with your child for 10 minutes a day, an hour a week was our aim for Australia’s first Reading Hour on the 25 August 2012. It was nominally from 6pm to 7pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, but with flexibility to allow schools and workplaces to run activities on a weekday (the previous week was the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week and the following week was the Australian Government’s Literacy and Numeracy Week) and different time zones to run events all through the day.
Having said that, The Reading Hour was for everyone and there were events and activities for all age groups. Our key partners were Scholastic, Dymocks bookshops, The Walt Disney Company, Madman Entertainment, Good Reading Magazine, The Big Issue, ABC Local Radio, Melbourne Writers Festival and Dymocks Children’s Charities.
Campaign 2: Public library membership drive
We ran a nationwide membership campaign between May and August, using the National Year of Reading to attract people into libraries and to support family literacy initiatives. Different libraries interpreted the campaign in different ways, and, indeed, the whole National Year of Reading was a giant promotion for all Australian libraries.
Campaign 3: One Country Reading
Several cities have adopted the One Book One City approach – Edinburgh with Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; Chicago with To Kill a Mocking Bird; Dublin, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Brisbane, The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies.
We based our multi-tiered version of the program around a much-loved Australian children’s book, Alison Lester’s Are We There Yet? We developed this theme of travel and places for a junior, young adult and adult audience, using a variety of different media and we based our National Year of Reading touring exhibition around Alison’s original artwork.
Campaign 4: Workplace literacy.
We worked with major employers to create writer-in-residence programs, with published outputs. There were writing workshops for employees who wanted to develop their creative skills, and for those who struggled with reading and writing but welcomed the opportunity to tell their story with the help of an author or illustrator.
In addition, we ran and Indigenous Festival of Reading, Writing and Storytelling, in Alice Springs, in September; a short story writing competition on the theme It’s Never Too Late ... To Learn to Read, for Adult Learners’ Week, also in September 2012.
Although the National Year of Reading needed to reach readers and non-readers, to have critical mass and be part of the mainstream rather than sidelined as a program for marginalised Australians, the underlying intention of the campaign was to reach people experiencing disadvantage and low literacy. For the public library membership drive, for example, we targeted:
Those who can’t afford to buy all the books they want to read
Migrants looking for a point of connection with their new surroundings
Parents who might not have thought of reading as a family activity
Elderly residents (promoting a healthy mind as well as a healthy body)
Young adults who may have got out of the habit of reading for pleasure
Non-readers seeking help to improve their literacy skills
People who don’t have their own computer at home
The cost of the campaign at a national level was $1.7 million. In addition, we estimate there was $5.6 million-worth of in-kind support. Partners contributed what they felt the project needed or deserved (Disney Junior, for example, produced a high quality TV advertisement for The Reading Hour and ran it free on the Disney Channel in the run up to The Reading Hour). For most recipients, the cost of participation was free.
The promotional tools were primarily shared branding (available to all free of charge); print collateral including posters, bookmarks, wallcharts, available free to libraries; free downloadable versions of the print material for other partners; our highly active website www.love2read.org.au, updated at least twice a week, and our even more active social media sites – 12,000 online followers for Love2Read Facebook, Twitter and our enewsletter (links and back issues available on the website). PR was incredibly important, as we had no budget for advertising. In terms of editorial coverage and free advertising alone, we gained $26 million-worth of media coverage.
We know that more than 2,000 libraries across Australia participated, running more than 4,000 events across the year, involving more than 200,000 active participants.
Our original budget for carrying out the campaign was $7 million and, thanks to a highly active program of partnerships, we managed to pull off nearly all the activities we wanted to do at a national level on the much reduced figure of $1.7 million. We are currently working on the allocation of costs against project management, program delivery, marketing and communications and evaluation, but as the project only ended two weeks ago (at time of writing), these figures are not yet available.
However, we can see clearly that there has been an incredibly high level of return on investment (ROI).
If we just look at the $1.7 million invested against the value of the media coverage generated and the in-kind support provided, this gives us an ROI of $18.59 for every $1 invested.
If we look at the $1.7 million against the 200,000 direct participants alone (ignoring the wider community awareness raising), it has cost just $8.50 per person for a potentially life-changing experience.
Edith Cowan University is carrying out an evaluation of the National Year of Reading and we anticipate more findings about the value and contribution of the campaign to individuals and communities across Australia. The report will be finalised at the end of February 2013.
For more information, contact:
Sue McKerracher firstname.lastname@example.org
Robyn Ellard email@example.com
National Year of Reading 2012 founder partners were the Australian Library and Information Association; the state-based public library associations of New South Wales (Metro and Country), Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia; the State Libraries of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia; the Northern Territory Library; LINC Tasmania, and Libraries ACT; auspiced by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).