Release type: Speech


2008 MS Readathon

Launch of the 2008 MS Readathon, Melbourne

Thank you for that introduction Mike.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri People.

It gives me great pleasure to be here at the State Library today to launch the MS Readathon.

It is wonderful to be able to support a national event that has actively encouraged literacy development and an enthusiasm for reading in Australian children for the past 29 years.

This event also plays a major role in contributing funds for ongoing research into a cure for Multiple Sclerosis and I was honoured to be invited to be a Patron of this year’s MS Readathon.

There is so much we don’t know about MS.

Some people with MS can lead active lives, others require intensive support. We can’t predict who might get MS and it’s difficult to detect.

Worse still, there is no known cure.

Time and money are needed, and that’s why events such as the MS Readathon that raise not only money, but awareness are so important.

Each year, thousands of Australian students unlock the door to the world of books and reading by joining in the fun and rewarding experience of the MS Readathon.

Last year alone, more than 73,000 Australian children participated, collectively reading more than one million books.

The ability to read is fundamental, not only to being able to participate in school, but to carry out simple everyday tasks in adult life with dignity and independence.

Without the ability to read, the opportunities for academic and occupational success are limited.

While the MS Readathon wasn’t around when I was at school, my favourite book as a child was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.

I was an avid reader and still remember the enjoyment I got from ‘cracking a case’ with Nancy Drew, or going on an adventure with Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings.

This enjoyment of reading has remained with me as an adult and I still love to sit down and lose myself in a good book whenever I get the chance.

Encouraging our children to read widely for enjoyment through events like the MS Readathon is important for strengthening the relationships between parents and children and between families and schools.

The MS Readathon is a great example of how these partnerships can work as it encourages teachers and parents to talk with kids about the sorts of books they are reading during the month of the competition.

It encourages students to talk with their parents and teachers about their favourite characters and heroes, to visit the library together for pleasure, and to value books and learning.

This Government is committed to increasing the importance and value placed on education and learning in our society, which is why we have called for an Education Revolution.

Internationally, Australian students are falling behind in reading literacy. According to the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment results, Australia was outperformed by five countries. In 2003 they were only beaten by one.

As a wealthy and developed nation it is not acceptable that students are unable to read and write.

The 2006 national literacy and numeracy benchmark results show that while most students meet the benchmarks, too many are still being left behind.

We must start to address educational and social disadvantage to ensure the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy are provided to all our young people, regardless of where they live and their socio-economic background.

In partnership with state and territory governments and the catholic and independent school sectors, we are establishing a National Action Plan on Literacy and Numeracy to ensure a coordinated approach to improving literacy and numeracy across the nation.

One of the Government’s priorities is to give all students, especially those who are educationally disadvantaged, the opportunity to develop these fundamental life skills.

I commend the MS Readathon for contributing to our vision of an education revolution by helping to promote the importance of literacy skills while helping the community to support people with Multiple Sclerosis.

I strongly encourage students to join in the fun of reading, knowing that it is also for a very good reason.

It is now my great pleasure to officially launch the MS Readathon for 2008.