Read­ing opens doors in the mind

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - NEWS - GE­ORGE SEY­MOUR Mayor, Fraser Coast Re­gional Coun­cil

OVER the week­end there were a num­ber of events across the Fraser Coast, of­fer­ing a full range of ex­pe­ri­ences.

One of these events was “Lines in the Sand”; an an­nual writ­ers’ fes­ti­val run in col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast and the Fraser Coast Li­braries. It was re­ally spe­cial to see so many lo­cals in­ter­act­ing with highly accomplished pub­lished au­thors about their ideas, tech­niques and sto­ries.

Of­ten when I talk about the great work that our li­braries are do­ing it is in re­la­tion to chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties and child­hood lit­er­acy. But read­ing for plea­sure and ed­i­fi­ca­tion is of tremen­dous benefit to peo­ple of all ages in our com­mu­nity.

This Thurs­day is Aus­tralian Read­ing Hour, a national ini­tia­tive en­cour­ag­ing Aus­tralians to pick up a book for an hour. Read­ing re­duces stress, it helps us to un­der­stand our own iden­tity, and re­ally im­por­tantly, leads to greater lev­els of em­pa­thy.

Good writ­ing can play a deep, pro­found and en­dur­ing role in our lives. It in­forms our ex­pe­ri­ences and broad­ens our hori­zons. Just in the past week pas­sages and scenes from books such as Brideshead Revisited, Never Let Me Go and The Leopard have come to me whilst at work. Works such as these give con­text and mean­ing to our ac­tions, thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences.

In a world where con­flict can ap­pear to be es­ca­lat­ing, de­cency seems to be de­clin­ing and the pub­lic dis­course is be­com­ing more di­vi­sive, we need em­pa­thy.

Lis­ten­ing to one of the au­thors, Shel­ley Davi­dow, speak about her books on grow­ing up in Apartheid era South Africa brought back fleet­ing, mo­men­tary and si­t­u­a­tional mem­o­ries of my Jo­han­nes­burg child­hood in the early 1980s.

Davi­dow’s child­hood told so mov­ingly in her re­cent book “Shadow Sis­ters” helps me to piece to­gether and con­tex­tu­alise my hand­ful of mem­o­ries of an el­derly African woman named Hilda who cared for my sis­ters and me; swim­ming in pools with friends; and vis­it­ing Kruger National Park.

The re­al­i­sa­tion that I could have ex­pe­ri­enced what seems to be such a hal­cyon child­hood in the midst of a bla­tantly un­just and dis­crim­i­na­tory sys­tem helps to guide me in my own views and thoughts on so­cial jus­tice now in ways I don’t think I fully un­der­stand.

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