The Difference One Bookseller Can Make

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Despite media reports this year bookshops in Australia are not closing down. They will not be extinct in 5 years time. They are here to stay and are evolving and adapting to changing reading habits and new technologies. National Bookshop Day will celebrate bookshops all around the country and highlight all the wonderful things bookshops do in their local communities.

Booksellers are a different breed of retailer. Yes, they exist to sell books but they are driven by more than that. Booksellers are passionate about books and reading. Sharing this joy is their primary motivation. Many bookshops are involved with local schools and kindergartens as well as literacy programs and booksellers not only donate books and money but also their time and energy.

One of the most inspiring booksellers is Suzy Wilson from Riverbend Books and Teahouse in Brisbane. In 2004, after learning about the horrific literacy rates of many indigenous communities, Suzy started the Riverbend Readers’ Challenge. 112 Queensland schools joined the challenge and together they raised $25,000. The Challenge grew in 2005 and after gaining the support of the Australian Booksellers Association, Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Society of Authors the Australian Readers’ Challenge was launched in 2006. Over 350 schools, 48 bookshops and publishers, and 64 public libraries participated and over $80,000 was raised. In 2007 the Indigenous Literacy Project was born in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation and the Australian Book Industry. Indigenous Literacy Day was also launched with the aim of raising $100,000. Over $250,000 was raised in the first year. Last year $609,000 was raised. In 2011 the Indigenous Literacy Project became a foundation it its own right and became the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Through the work of the foundation hundreds of lives have been changed all because one bookseller asked “Can you imagine a world without books and reading?” and was determined to make a difference.

Suzy made this difference while at the same time running a highly successful bookshop in Brisbane. Suzy is the epitome of what being a bookseller is all about. She is an inspiration and somebody I greatly admire. I became a bookseller because I love sharing with other people the great books I’ve read and discovered. Suzy Wilson, through her tireless work and determination, has given the gift of reading to children who would have missed out otherwise. She is a real hero.

Visit your local book shop on National Bookshop Day – Saturday August 20 because your local bookshop is more than just a place that sells books. It’s a full member of your local community and can make a real difference if it is given your support.

Pages & Pages is holding Book Busking on Saturday and all money raised is going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Come along and support the buskers and the foundation.

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