26 October 2023

For the love of literature: The next generation of readers and writers learn from inspirational local authors

| Keeli Royle
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The Children’s Literary Lunch

The Children’s Literary Lunch allowed keen readers and writers to interact with authors and illustrators. Photos: Keeli Royle.

The imagination of the next generation has been brought to life by a love of books with children from across the region mingling with local authors and illustrators at an interactive event celebrating all things literary.

Specially selected students from 14 schools between Sutherland and Sanctuary Point shared their passion for reading and writing with creatives that have made a career of it at the annual Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Illawarra and South Coast Children’s Literary Lunch.

It was an exciting opportunity for avid readers like Cedars Christian College Year 5 student Samuel Gethinrya, who was keen to expand his horizons and see what stories are out there.

“I love reading, I normally get in trouble because I’m always reading,” Samuel said. “I just like the world that it takes me to.

“And I just want to get a lot of different ideas from all the authors.”

Kids writing a story at the literary lunch.

Keen readers and writers were selected from 14 local schools.

For future writers like Sophie Baker who is in Year 4 at Tarrawanna Public School and Sidney Smith who is in Year 7 at Keira High School, conversations and activities facilitated at the event will help them pursue their passion.

“I’m hoping to get inspiration for some books that I like to write in school,” Sophie said.

“Things like how the scene is set, who the characters are, because sometimes I have some trouble picking.”

And allow them to finesse their skills to improve their craft.

“I’m really excited about learning more writing techniques and how to lay out the story and how characters are described,” Sidney said.

READ ALSO Shellharbour comes out of the shadows in Karen Hendriks’ new book for local kids

CBCA Illawarra and South Coast sub-branch President Louise Saint-John said it was a rare experience to have so many authors and illustrators in the same place and through events like this kids could be encouraged to keep reading.

“The kids are learning so much about all the different things that the authors have to offer,” Louise said.

“Just being able to make that connection with an author or an illustrator makes the students want to pick up that book.”

While some kids were starstruck when realising that some of the illustrators had worked on hugely popular stories like Dragon Skin and Diary of a Roblox Pro, many also got the opportunity to be exposed to lesser-known works like those by Shellharbour author Karen Hendriks.

Kids putting out posters showcasing their stories.

Students wrote stories which were showcased around the room.

“Most kids only know really big-name authors and I’m only a small local author so they wouldn’t know I exist,” Karen said. “But there are lots of us out there being creative and they can see too that they can do it.”

Karen is not only a local author but is also showcasing the local area with her new children’s book celebrating all things Shellharbour being released in December.

“I always wanted to write about where I come from because we are a little bit forgotten; we’re overshadowed by Wollongong and Kiama and we’re a unique and distinct place with so many beautiful places to go to, that are wonderful and natural and unspoiled,” Karen said.

READ ALSO From forgetting your life to moving your family to France: Festival to share incredible personal tales

As someone who always knew she wanted to get into writing, Karen was eager to share her enthusiasm with the next generation.

“If you’re passionate about something it comes through to children, and books are windows to all sorts of worlds and I think they need to realise and feel it and see it and when you’re passionate, they become passionate.”

And inspire them to take a leap.

“You don’t have to be a big famous person to be an author, anybody can do it,” she said. “Just go for it and have fun because the journey is the reward.”

To find out more or to get in touch with the CBCA Illawarra South Coast branch visit their Facebook page.

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