The Brian Bahnisch Award is a biennial award to recognise and encourage collaborations and partnerships involving teacher-librarians, teachers and members of the school and/or wider community.
This year the Brian Bahnisch award is presented to the founders of the Read Like a Girl Project. Kathryn Schravemade of St Rita’s College and Helen Stower of Mt Alvernia College, and community partner, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pauline McLeod, of Riverbend Books.
Read Like a Girl is a community partnership that was set up with the goal of literacy advancement of girls. This project encapsulated a calendar of reading events aimed at instilling a foundation and love of reading in the college communities and more broadly among girls everywhere. The goal of this project was to provide girls opportunities to attend book events, meet authors, participate in conversations about literature, reading and storytelling, purchase books, network with other girls, women and people who value reading and academic success, and develop knowledge of the possibilities literacy creates.
While each school organises and manages its own events, each school provides support for one another through a commitment to information sharing, event invitations and attendance, and marketing.
Events have included school visits and workshops from authors; Book launches; evening events with authors; writing workshops; International Women’s Day Literary Breakfast; Literacy Week Festival and even a Read Like a Girl with your Dad event.
A number of the Read Like a Girl events are open to the public and advertised through the schools and Riverbend Books. These invite others from communities beyond the colleges to participate in the literature-based initiatives.
The Read Like a Girl events have the potential to equip students with experiences, skills and inspiration for their futures. What they learn and experience through RLAG opens their eyes to additional possibilities for their futures, whether that be their love for reading or writing as a hobby or as something they may like to pursue as a career.
The project has grown to include a third school, St John Fisher College who held their first Read Like a Girl events this year including the Girls Write Now Literary Festival in August.
Read Like a Girl is a truly innovative initiative due to the unique way that it has responded to the issue of declining reading rates among girls.
A study of Australian teenagers aged between 12 and 16 by researchers Manuel & Carter confirmed that “reading books ranked as a preferred activity for around one-fifth of [teenaged] respondents, while 32 per cent would prefer not to or never to read in their spare time” (2015, p.119).
Debra Evans, Assistant Principal, Teaching and Learning, Mt Alvernia College says that “Reading and literacy underpin all learning […] It helps to broaden their perspectives and outlooks on life, building confidence, empathy, communication and critical thinking”.
Similarly, Deputy Principal, Studies, St Rita’s College, Maree Trims states that “Strong literacy underpins learning success, and opportunities to support girls to improve their literacy through reading for pleasure are instrumental in achieving this aim. “
The results of Read Like a Girl speak for themselves. In eighteen months since the program’s launch, borrowing and reading rates at our school libraries have tripled that of 2016. “Our book events are a regular feature on the school calendar and our students are highly involved in these events, from attending and meeting authors, to helping set up and run the events.” One event this year with Australian author Jessica Watson attracted over 500 attendees. The aim of promoting reading for enjoyment is well and truly being fulfilled.