Getting books into little hands: The Bookaburra program

The Bookaburra program is designed to get books into the hands of children at a critical age in their development.

“Storytelling is one of the earliest forms of teaching and learning for children. It is not only good for the development of wellbeing but can assist a child in making sense of their life and experiences.” Professor Helen Milroy, child psychiatrist and author.

The Books for Little Bookaburras project is a Fremantle Press initiative focused on promoting literacy in Western Australia. Distributing more than 12,000 books to around 4,000 kindergarten-aged children across the state, the program bridges the gap between the Better Beginnings program for babies and the school system.

Read the latest print edition of School News HERE

The program acknowledges that children need books that belong to them. “The thing that has been integral to Bookaburras from the start is that we believe that books and stories are not only about literacy rates, but that books are there to be enjoyed, shared and treasured,” explains Fremantle Press CEO Alex Allan. “That’s why each pack contains three beautiful new books for each child to take home – we really hope this will be the beginning of their own library and that we might plant the seeds of a lifelong booklover.”

Bookaburras has been a passion project of a number of years for Fremantle Press, a not-for-profit small publisher in Western Australia, and was established by former CEO Jane Fraser, who worked with the Board to raise funding to launch the program.

The program is driven by two things: the recognition that literacy rates were decreasing and that early intervention was the best way to address this mounting problem.

Chair of Fremantle Press, Clair Medhurst (left) and author Renae Hayward say hooray at the launch of the 2024 Bookaburra program.

The Critical Years

Research from the Department of Education and Training Victoria shows a direct causal effect between the frequency of reading to children at a young age and future schooling outcomes, regardless of family background and environment.

It was with this in mind that the Bookaburras program was targeted at the critical preschool age group, 3 to 4-year-olds, just as vocabulary and oral cognition are being developed, and young minds are awash with imagination and creativity.

“At this age, books are all about enjoyment, play, fun and sharing special moments. We know that the best way to get kids reading and to keep them reading, is to make books engaging, entertaining, fun and thought-provoking,” says Allan.

With the support of a number of founding sponsors, including the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, Wright Burt Foundation, Hesperia Group and others, in 2024, the program announced a new partnership with the WA Department of Education’s Premier’s Summer Reading Challenge and KindiLink. The additional funding will mean that authors are able to tour regional areas for Storytime sessions, reaching children who might not otherwise have access to the program.

Author Support

The 2024 Books for Little Bookaburras Ambassador, Renae Hayward, says every child deserves to have books in their life – not only for all they will learn, but for all the special moments they will share with their grown-ups.

“Sharing a book with a favourite grown-up is one of the best ways to develop literacy in kids. Reading together lets children explore and experiment with language and build an understanding of how sounds, structures and words work.” Renae Hayward, author

Joining other West Australian authors James Foley, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Norman Jorgensen, Rebecca Mills, Helen Milroy, Chris Nixon and Chris Owen, Hayward is generously donating all her royalties back to the program. 

“I became the Bookaburras Ambassador because I love books, and think everyone deserves to have books in their life – especially kids,” explains Hayward. “I love writing for children because they are the most creative, imaginative, playful readers and I’m really excited that my book, Say Hooray, will be given to every Little Bookaburra this year.”

Vitally, the program acknowledges that one book is not enough, and a variety of books are required to expand sensory awareness, perspective and compassion. Therefore, each year the ‘mini library’ is curated for reading progression, from simple texts a child can attempt on their own, to more challenging books that are designed to be read to children by adults.

“We truly believe that a love of reading at any age or stage brings not only great educational outcomes, but that stories can bring so much more to us as individuals and as a community: when you open the pages of a book, or step into a story, you are literally walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and this act itself can bring us understanding, empathy and a new perspective.” Alex Allan

Early learning centres in WA can register for the 2025 program by finding the details on the Fremantle Press website.


Shannon Meyerkort

Shannon Meyerkort is a freelance writer and the author of "Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed our World", now available in all good bookstores.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
SchoolNews - Australia