Students from Galston High School had the chance to chat with authors behind the scenes at the Sydney Writers Festival in Parramatta. On Thursday 1 May, four students interviewed New York Times bestselling authors Dhonielle Clayton and Neal Shusterman as well as home-grown talent Ambelin Kwaymullina and Will Kostakis.
Talking to Year 9 student Sarah Goodall, Ms Kwaymullina highlighted the importance of seeing diversity in books. “It was very hard to find books about Aboriginal people … about really all marginalised people when I was a teenager,” she said. “I read all sorts of books, but I think my problem was – and I think it’s a problem echoed by a lot of marginalised writers of my generation – that we never saw ourselves in them. “When we got older we started to write stories we wish we had back then.” Jade Arnold, teacher-librarian at Galston High, said the experience gave her students “a deeper understanding of what inspires the books” they were reading.
“Reading is such an important part of students’ lives, and everyone’s lives,” Miss Arnold said. “They’re all fangirling and fanboying a little bit, but as a teacher-librarian, I think one of the really valuable things this experience is giving them is seeing that books are a product of authors. “They’ll understand where a lot of that inspiration came from, and perhaps be inspired to try writing themselves one day.”
For author Will Kostakis it was authors such as Enid Blyton and Morris Gleitzman who had a lasting impact. “Barry Jonsberg was another] huge influence. I remember reading him in the middle of high school and thinking ‘that’s the kind of author I want to be’,” he said.
Year 10 student Bonni Lloyd, who interviewed Mr Kostakis, said she would be “taking on the more personal notes he shared” when next reading his books. The interviews will be released online as part of the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge 2019 author and illustrator showcase.
The Premier’s Reading Challenge is an annual program that encourages students across the state to develop a love of reading, with the 2019 challenge open until August 30. Mr Kostakis, who is a Premier’s Reading Challenge ambassador, reflected on his experiences of completing the program as a student. “It was never a chore. The list is always filled with engaging novels that inspire readers,” he said.
In 2018 more than 2,500 NSW schools stepped up to the challenge, reading a combined total of more than 8.3 million books. The 2019 Premier’s Reading Challenge media partner is NewsLocal and the supporting partner is Dymocks Children’s Charities