How do you get kids excited about reading?

How do you get kids excited about reading? A question asked by parents and teachers all over the country. Well this Melbourne-based not-for-profit organisation knows thing or to about this very topic. We sat down with Jess, 100 Story Building‘s Communications Manager to find out a bit more their story.

Can you tell us what’s the story behind 100 Story Building?

In late 2007 two of our co-founders, Jenna Williams and Lachlann Carter, were in the audience as author Dave Eggers talked about his 826 Valencia centre and pirate store in San Francisco. Inspired by his passion and seeing the potential of the 826 model to transform the lives of marginalised and disadvantaged children and young people here in Melbourne, they interned at 826 Valencia for three months before setting up not-for-profit organisation Pigeons.

From the very first program, Pigeon Letters, to today we have delivered long-term writing projects to more than 300 children and young people, connecting them to authors and storytellers, and building up a large network of pretty incredible people.

100 Story Building is the next chapter in the Pigeons story – not just a new name but a social enterprise model, and a centre for young writers in Footscray. At 100 Story Building, we’ll deliver programs that support and extend the resources of teachers, parents and the community to engage 1,000 of the most marginalised children and young people in Melbourne’s inner-west in literacy learning.

Still wondering what 100 Story Building is all about?

We know that many Australians – around 46% – struggle with literacy in some way. In your experience, how does literacy influence the quality of life for young people?

It’s a fact that literacy engagement is essential for building an individual’s confidence, sense of belonging and engagement in broader society. It’s crucial to the quality of civic, cultural and economic activity in our communities – to an individual’s ability to communicate, think critically and engage with others.

For me, author Alice Pung, a 100 Story Building Ambassador, perfectly sums up the effect literacy disengagement can have on young people in particular.

‘Being a writer from the suburbs of Braybrook and Footscray, I have seen firsthand the effects of early-age voicelessness, alienation and frustration which often results in early school leaving.’

More than 3000 students from twenty-three schools in Melbourne’s inner-western suburbs experience socio-educational disadvantage. These students come from families with limited financial means. Their teachers face great challenges in helping these students attain educational benchmarks, including literacy levels.

It’s a sobering statistic that the reading proficiency gap between a student from a socio-economically advantaged background, and a student from a socio-economically disadvantaged background can be as wide as three years.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

We’re about to put out the call for kids to join the editorial board of Early Harvest, a collaborative after-school project run in partnership between 100 Story Building, Davina Bell of harvest magazine and community development worker Emma Hewitt. Over fourteen weeks, upper-primary students develop, commission and edit a literary magazine for their fellow readers (young and old!). This will be the second issue of early harvest – you can get a taste of what’s to come from the first issue here.

There’s also a project we’re developing in partnership with two great youth orgs – Express Media and SYN Media. We can’t share any details yet, but let’s just say it involves young people, broadcast radio plays and the lost art of making a fire crackle over the airwaves.

And the really big one … opening the doors of the actual 100 Story Building! We hope to announce the official date shortly. Stay tuned!

How can people get involved?

One of the most rewarding ways to be involved is to volunteer. We’re looking for people to work one-one-one with children and young people in our programs, supporting and encouraging them to find their voice.

If you can’t be a volunteer, we encourage you to donate, become a subscriber, purchase a masterclass for yourself or a school holiday workshop for your kids – we want people to be able to contribute in any way that suits them. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we depend on all of these things to keep our doors open and programs running, and to foster the love of literacy that is so important to transforming the lives of the children and young people we work with.

Victoria Law Foundation is donating the proceeds of the fundraising raffle at the Legal Laneway Breakfast on Wednesday 30 January to 100 Story Building. The breakfast is free to attend, if you’d like to come along register now.

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