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    Mount Isa or Bust!

    Dec 16, 2019 0

    After months of planning and co-ordinating the Book Giving Assembly dates of the eight Glencore schools in and around the Mount Isa region, on Monday in the last week of November I embarked on my north west Queensland adventure. Arriving back in Mount Isa for the first time in four years, I immediately felt relaxed as I settled into the very friendly and relaxed atmosphere of this regional centre.

    Early Tuesday morning I set off for Cloncurry, a small town about an hour and a half east of Mount Isa. I was bit concerned as I heard the weather report alert me to the fact I was heading into a very calm 42 degrees Celsius. I must admit I felt somewhat annoyed when I arrived at Cloncurry State School and found it was actually 43 degrees! Didn’t seem to worry the people there, so I quickly put it behind me as I met our Glencore Cloncurry representative Carmen Tooth and the five other Glencore representatives who Carmen had organised to accompany her and present and read the Books in Homes books to the children.

    Quickly shuffling between buildings, I soon settled in with the Year 4 class. We asked each other some tricky questions, and I soon recognised the love and respect the staff and children had for Books in Homes. It was very exciting to hear some of the children tell the stories of their history with Books in Homes, talk about their home libraries and how they share their books with their brothers and sisters, and just generally impressing me with their high engagement with and  appreciation for Books in Homes.

    It was no different around the corner at St Joseph’s School, where the Year 5 class impressed me with much more of the same. Everything the staff had told me with respect to the love of Books in Homes in Cloncurry was reflected in my conversations with the children.

    A couple of things stood out in Cloncurry. Firstly, with no bookshop in town and the nearest one being in Mount Isa, the Books in Homes Program fills a very big hole in the homes of the families of Cloncurry. With both Cloncurry primary schools having access to Books in Homes, the schools have built a very strong reading culture where reading has become a normal practice for the children. Books in Homes and Cloncurry work very well together!

    Second, being a mining town, the population of Cloncurry is very transient, and on settling in Cloncurry, children told me they were pleasantly surprised to discover Books in Homes, and how the books helped them to adjust to life in Cloncurry, as well as to the reading programs offered by both the schools.

    Well done Cloncurry! Thank you Glencore!

    Back in Mount Isa, I was able to visit three schools and participate in their Book Giving Assemblies: Mount Isa Central, Sunset State School and Townview State School. Whilst each school offered a different experience, a common theme stood out across the board—very high engagement with the books from Books in Homes, great reading cultures and programs in the schools, and appreciation from everyone involved in the schools, from the children to the staff, as well as the parents.

    Thanks to our Glencore Books in Homes representative in Mount Isa, Jemma Schweikert, I experienced some very special moments at these schools alongside the Glencore representatives who Jemma organised to attend the Book Giving Assemblies with me. We presented the books to the children, and I discovered that the Glencore Role Models inspired the children with their life and work stories that emphasised the value of reading, and we again got the opportunity to read to the children at some of the schools.

    As Mount Isa is a mining town, Books in Homes makes a real difference to the children and families who come to the schools from other regions where there is no access to book stores. All the Mount Isa schools run reading programs and encouraged children to view reading as a normal way to spend their time. It was a common theme. I learnt that many of the children came from backgrounds and regions where having books in homes is not a priority, and having Books in Homes is an encouraging way of enabling many of these children to adapt to the important role reading plays in education.

    It was impressive to see the children at my afternoon visits, sitting and reading their books quietly in the front of the school whilst waiting for their bus, and then as I drove away, seeing others walking home with their Book Bags proudly slung over their backs, proudly displaying Books in Homes to the people of Mount Isa.

    Well done Mount Isa and well done Glencore!

    My last school was Dajarra State School. Dajarra is primarily an Indigenous town located a couple of hours south of Mount Isa. A sole camel walking alongside the roadway was a highlight of my long and winding drive to Dajarra. But once there, I had a great experience. Meeting up with the school principal I learnt about the background of the town, its people, and the school, its culture, strengths and challenges. The school had organised for me to meet a few of the parents from Dajarra, and that was a great opportunity to hear about the importance of Books in Homes to their families, particularly to the younger children who become familiar with books and reading before attending school. The parents told me their children valued their books and often read in their quiet time at home. There was no other opportunity for the children to own, let alone choose, books to take home and keep.

    I was joined by Glencore’s Carmen Tooth again who had driven from Cloncurry via Mount Isa to pick up Katie, another Glencore representative, to attend the Book Giving Assembly at Dajarra. Carmen and Katie had also spotted the camel on their long drive—something Carmen had never seen before either!

    The Book Giving Assembly was again an experience to take away with me. Twenty Indigenous students, the staff and family members attended in a small classroom before heading outside for some photos. The children, particularly the younger ones, were excited to receive their books, and the school’s dress up theme for the day added to the atmosphere.

    Thank you, Dajarra, and your wonderful people, and thank you, Glencore, for the opportunity.

    So I managed to visit six of the eight Glencore sponsored schools in and around Mount Isa. Apologies to Healy State School and Camooweal State School, which will certainly be at the top of the priority list next time we visit Glencore at Mount Isa.

    To all the wonderful people I met, to all the school principals and staff who made me feel very welcome and looked after me whilst I was at their school, a very big thank you! I don’t have enough room here to name you all, so I must instead pass on in a very special way my great appreciation, as well as my congratulations, to all of you for the value that you, your schools, your students and your families place on their opportunity to participate in Books in Homes.

    Back in the office this week, I shall continue to reflect and also share the story of the high engagement that Books in Homes receives under the Glencore sponsorship and the benefits it delivers to the region of Mount Isa.

    Thank you, Glencore.

    Story contributed by Peter Large, and photo contributed by Sandra Fegan from Sunset State School, Qld.

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