Australian Reading Hour exceeds expectations in 2021

The tenth annual Australian Reading Hour, presented by Australia Reads, exceeded expectations in 2021  with an unprecedented number of authors, illustrators, librarians, educators, booksellers, publishers,  and Members of Parliament participating despite Covid-19 lockdowns across the ACT, NSW and Victoria.

Since its inception by local libraries a decade ago, Australian Reading Hour has become embraced as the  nation’s official excuse to stop whatever it is we might be doing (work, study, home-schooling, zooming,  binging) for an hour – on the same day each year – and rediscover the comfort and joy of reading a book.


In 2021 Australian Reading Hour sparked a national conversation around the theme Stories That Matter with millions of Australians sharing their personal reflections on how the books we read and write help  shape our sense of wellbeing, belonging and identity – as individuals and a community.

The resulting public conversations across social media (reaching 17.7 million accounts and trending on Twitter in 4th, 6th and 7th spots on the day) and at events in libraries, schools and bookshops around the  country and online (for a total audience of around 80,000) have generated passionate ‘must-read’  recommendations featuring a fabulous variety of books for all ages by local Australian book creators.


The conversation about stories that matter continues to reverberate with a vital motion moved in the House of Representatives recognising the value of reading, especially in terms of its many  mental health and social wellbeing benefits, and the impact of the pandemic on the local book industry.

The motion was moved by Susan Templeman MP on behalf of the Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends  of Australian Books and Writers, Graham Perrett MP, seconded by Anne Stanley MP and supported by  Celia Hammond MP, Bridget Archer MP, Josh Wilson MP, Katie Allen MP and Andrew Leigh MP.

In their speeches (see below) each MP praised Australian Reading Hour and name-checked the books and  writers whose works have mattered to them and highlighted how reading can transform lives – from  reducing stress, creating empathy and connection to shaping a sense of self, confidence and curiosity.

The speakers also acknowledged the critical role libraries play in fostering literacy and ensuring books  are accessible to all; paid tribute to organisations showcasing writers and illustrators; and called for  support to ensure the stories we write and read continue to fire imaginations, inspire future generations  and better reflect and cherish our First Nations heritage, multicultural and LGBTQI+ communities.


‘My post sparked so many conversations between strangers who found something in common. It helped  people find a connection with each other while we were being forced by a global pandemic to be  physically apart… That is the beauty of books. That small interaction really was proof that books can be  an escape from the worries of everyday life… and for a few precious minutes forget about home schooling or working from home or not working.’
Susan Templeman MP (Macquarie, NSW ALP)

‘The book which I was reading during Australian Reading Hour is without any doubt at all truly a story  that matters: The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku, this is Eddie’s memoir, chronicling his  extraordinary tale of survival… and dedicating his life to teaching about the dangers of intolerance and  the importance of hope… because of his book, his legacy and inspiration to all of us will live on.’
Celia Hammond MP (Curtin, WA LP)

‘It’s always difficult to come up with just 10 Australian novels that matter, but it did make me realise what  a breadth of talent we have spread across this great, brown land of ours. We have incredible authors  whose stories have changed lives not only here in Australia but all around the world…’
Graham Perrett MP (Moreton, QLD ALP)  

I’d also like to take this time to acknowledge the role that our local libraries play in our communities…  Our libraries offer so much more than providing free books—offering courses, literacy programs, school  holiday programs and more.’
Bridget Archer MP (Bass, TAS LP)  

‘We must support Australian writing to ensure our kids and their kids can see themselves and can hear  our distinctive stories and greater diversity in the years to come. In what has been a difficult time, I give  a shout-out to all the writers in Australia—not just the famous and successful ones but all the hundreds and hundreds of writers who toil away in the hope of being published one day and who ultimately  underpin our vital and diverse Australian literature.’
Josh Wilson MP (Fremantle, WA ALP) 

‘Books and learning to read play an important role in literacy skills and early development of children. As  a paediatrician and mother of four, some of my most special moments were listening to my children read  and seeing their confidence grow, from Possum Magic through to the Harry Potter series…’
Katie Allen MP (Higgins, VIC LP) 

‘Books can shape how we think about policy and politics… All leaders should be readers. All of us in the  parliament should be reading more.’
Andrew Leigh MP (Fenner, ACT ALP)

For a full transcript of the Australian Reading Hour motion – see the Commonwealth of Australia. House of Representatives. (2021) Parliamentary Debates (Official Hansard).

Bookstores get creative as #AustraliaReadsAtHome

Want to support your local bookstore? Check out the ABA’s Love Your Bookshop page to find out what local booksellers are doing near you! This list from Simon and Schuster is pretty handy too. Or check out this article from Books + Publishing. We’re also loving all the bookstore love popping up on social media including #BackYourBookshop.

This is by no means a comprehensive list – and we’ll be updating this page with more bookstore goodness – and you should check out the Australia Booksellers Association’s page for the most up-to-date information.

If you’re a bookseller and you’re doing something great or you’ve noticed one of your local bookstores’ great initiatives, we’d love to hear from you – so contact Robyn from the ABA and Colin from the APA!

So why read during this time?

There’s heaps of research out there about why books are great for people who are lonely, stressed, isolated and staying in– and these days – it might be hard to go to a bookstore. But as the old, imaginary adage goes – if you can’t get to the books, let the books come to you.

Whether it’s click and collect drive-thru, or stylish bicycle book couriers offering free and quick delivery – it’s a great time to buy local. 

You’re also helping our local and independent booksellers survive – and they are crucial parts of our book ecosystem.

If you’re a bookseller or a local business owner, or someone who just is interested in supporting books during this tough time – here’s just a few examples of innovative ideas from our local stores!

Books and bikes: special deliveries from booksellers

Can’t get to the books? Let them come to you… by bicycle.

Here’s the view from a book delivery from the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville

If you order from Avid Reader Bookshop in Brissy – there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get these fine folk giving you fine books on their fine bikes. There’s a 100% chance that local delivery is free.

Sydneysiders are spoilt for choice when it comes to great indie booksellers! Here’s some of them that are offering free, same-day bicycle delivery!

Not only can you get bicycle delivery from Better Read Than Dead in their local suburbs, they’re also offering (more traditional) postal delivery for free nationwide

Here’s Nerida from Gleebooks – apparently they’ll get you your books whether rain, hail or shine – and judging by those waterproof panniers and knowing Nerida’s riding skills, we believe them!

And of course, you can’t talk about Sydney without talking about Melbourne – so here’s a whole article in Broadsheet about bookstores from Bellarine to Brunswick doing same day delivery.

Check out if there’s some stores near you that are also offering novel ways of delivering books. (We couldn’t help ourselves)

Would you like books with that? 

While some have had to close their physical doors (and yes we’re going to have to wait before we can experience the joy of browsing shelves of books), heaps are still open in spirit – or in some creative cases – open with drive-thru windows!

Riverbend books in classic, laid-back Queenslander style is showing us one way to do tap and go!

Loving this click and collect window and table set-up from Potts Point Bookshop in NSW

We love reading books in cafes… but what if… a bookstore and a cafe combined forces – and created a cafe and grocery and books goody box? Say no more because Queensland’s Alphabet Cafe has done precisely that with the Avid Reader Bookstore!

And some bookshops are offering things online – and in multiple languages

Check out these bilingual storytimes from Western Sydney’s Lost In Books – the bookstore arm of an arts and social organisation that supports refugees and newly arrived families with diverse cultures and language backgrounds.

They’re also doing world book tours and musical livestreams on their YouTube channel – so check it out, support them and donate!

And we wish this service from the Younger Sun was real!


They are still delivering though, and that’s not a joke.

And some booksellers like The Leaf Bookshop – are really upping their social media game!

Why read?

In addition to being an immersive and enjoyable activity, we can harp on about the research about the benefits of reading: 

  • Helps us escape
  • Reduces feelings of loneliness and stress
  • Helps us learn new things
  • Connects to people without being physically present

Books Create Australia is also helping build Australia Reads and #AustraliaReadsAtHome. So come on, and get involved! We’d love to have you and the young people in your life reading more.


Schools Storytime arrangement

A special arrangement for school storytimes during the COVID-19 outbreak has been announced by the APA, ASA and the National Copyright Unit.

We believe that all children should be able to enjoy books and stories from their earliest years – and to have this available to everyone, including those without books at home.

What does this mean for teachers?

If you’re a teacher, you’ll be able to continue to read stories to students, whether they’re learning from school or at home.

Schools are now encouraged to livestream storytimes so children won’t miss out on this important and much-loved activity.

Usually, teachers are able to read stories to students in class. Now that classrooms are moving online – things that relate to copyright become a bit more uncertain, so the APA, the ASA, and schools wish to clear up any doubts about how rules apply to remote learning.

So the APA and ASA have asked their publisher and author members to suspend permission requirements for the duration of the pandemic.

What’s the best and fairest way to do storytimes at your school?

  1. Livestream wherever possible – such as Google Classroom, a Zoom call, or Facebook live streaming.
  2. If streaming is not practical – you can make a recording as long as:
    • The recording is “view only” – so no other copies can be made or downloaded.
    • Wherever possible the recording is made available in a password protected access in a digital teaching environment
  3. Provide the book details at the beginning of any livestream or recording – so:
    • Title
    • Author
    • Illustrator
    • Publishers
  4. This policy is temporary – and remains while schools are providing remote learning during the COVID-19 emergency or the conclusion of term 2 (whichever is earlier). Once school resumes normal teaching practices – the Storytime arrangement will no longer be active.

Using these Storytime arrangements, we hope that teachers and educators will be empowered to use Australian made books and to support Australian creators, authors, publishers and booksellers.

If teachers need further information about this Storytime Agreement, or have copyright questions regarding COVID 19, please contact NCU:

Great! I want to do a Storytime – where can I find some ideas?

If you’d like ideas about how to do a Storytime – take a look at these resources:

Want to get involved in a conversation about reading at home? You can also follow and add to the #AustraliaReadsAtHome campaign.

For ASA enquiries, please contact Lucy Hayward, Marketing & Communications Manager:

For APA enquiries please contact Colin Ho, Public Relations & External Communications:

Books Create Australia responds to COVID-19 Pandemic

To find the latest health news on COVID-19 visit the Department of Health website.

Further information may be available from the State or Territory health departments: ACT | NSW | NT | QLD | SA | TAS | VIC | WA

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s book industry is acting rapidly.

A lot has wisely been put on hold for the interests of community health and safety. But as bookshops, publishers, libraries and authors – we’re still here to bring books that educate, inform, entertain and inspire Australians.

We want to make sure Australians of all ages are still learning, feeding their imaginations, finding meaning in stories, and still connecting with others – we believe reading and books play a key role in that.

Why are books essential to our wellbeing?

Books Create Australia is currently talking to the government, making sure they know that we love our books – and that we think books are still important and should be supported during this time.

We understand that the immediate priority is on health and security, but the arts is crucial to our wellbeing during the crisis and recovery afterwards. We need to books to help people young and old to keep learning. We need stories to nourish, to entertain and to inspire.

We need books to sustain us and keep us connected during this time.

Books can help with those needs. We know:

Below, you will find ways that we are responding and helping Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Here’s the libraries’ COVID-19 resource and response page. It includes:

They are still providing their crucial services, and have many resources for people to access online and remotely.

As part of a special Books Create Australia agreement, we’ve broadened and removed barriers for accessing online library Storytimes.

If you’d like more ideas about what what you can do with your libraries online, this ABC Life article has plenty of tips and ideas from actual librarians.


The ASA are updating the community as regularly as possible on their news page in regards to their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’re looking at ways to support writers during this time, and are continuing to participate in roundtable discussions with the Australia Council and Office for the Arts. They are calling out for authors to fill in this survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on author incomes in order to provide essential data to the government.
While the ASA does not administer the Writers Benevolent Fund, they are proud of their longtime association with the Trustees and encourage authors affected by COVID-19 to apply for funding, where they are eligible.
The ASA are also looking to inspire authors and illustrators with ideas on how to adapt during this difficult time by listing positive initiatives from the arts sector in Australia and across the globe.


Here’s the ABA’s resources and response to COVID-19.

They’ve got information and resources for:

Consumers have been urged to buy local – as our independent booksellers are quite vulnerable during this time.

If you want information about your local bookstore, opening hours, delivery options and other vital information – you can visit this database put together by the ABA and Books+Publishing.

Book supply chains are still running – to ensure our bookstores are stocked up and ready to ship out books to everyone.


The APA has set up a special COVID-19 information and news page – which will be updated regularly.

The Australian Publishers Association is working to help keep the book business running – providing important information to everyone involved in making books, ensuring that cash flow and distribution and supply chains continue.

Educational publishers have stepped up to help schools and other educational providers transition into online learning – you can read more about what they’re doing in terms of improving access, offering free content and other forms of support.

Publishers are also putting funding and resources into promoting reading and the book industry. Which brings us to the next point – Australia Reads.

Australia Reads initiative

As an industry, we’re supporting these activities with the #AustraliaReadsAtHome campaign – which is part of the bigger Australia Reads project. It’s here to champion the power of reading and literacy.

The #AustraliaReadsAtHome hashtag can be followed and used to promote the many benefits of reading to those who are going into quarantine or self-isolation. It’s also a great way to keep younger ones entertained if schools are closed.

The Australia Reads festival begins Tuesday 1 September 2020 and culminates with the main event, Australian Reading Hour on Thursday 17 September. Find out more about Australia Reads.

Stay up to date and join the Books Create Australia community

Want to get involved? Want to know more?

Bookmark the Books Create Australia page, follow us on social media, and subscribe to our newsletter if you would like to keep up-to-date with what the book industry is doing.

Keep up to date with bookish news and announcements!

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For more specific information you can visit these websites:

And as always, stay in if you can, stay safe, look after each other, and stay connected.

We’ll be doing our best to keep bringing you books – we’ll be sharing news about what the book community is doing during these challenging times.

Thanks for supporting us and being a part of it.

Book industry partners come to agreement on copyright

Books Create Australia, the collaboration between the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA), the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the Australian Publishers Association (APA) and the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) has announced a special arrangement for library storytimes during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For the duration of the pandemic, virtual storytimes will be sanctioned by an industry agreement. It is the policy of the Boards of the APA and ASA that their members suspend any requirements for copyright permission to be sought, in order to allow libraries to make recordings* or livestream storytimes so children aren’t denied this important and much-loved service.

To support libraries delivering storytimes online, ALIA, the APA and the ASA have made this joint statement:

‘The Australian Publishers Association, the Australian Library and Information Association and the Australian Society of Authors share a common goal for all children to be able to enjoy books and stories from the earliest years. Library-run storytimes make this opportunity available to many families, including those without books at home.

‘While the Copyright Act enables the performance of a picture book in some circumstances, the APA, the ALA, and ALIA are taking these steps to clarify any doubts. We value a safe environment, where libraries feel confident to adapt early literacy activities such as storytime for online delivery, via an open livestream or recording.

‘It is the policy of the Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Society of Authors that its members allow such use without any need for specific permission or payment’.

The agreement on virtual storytimes follows on from earlier agreements between ALIA, the APA and the ASA about the delivery of library run storytimes outside library buildings, the use of book covers to promote books and authors, and copying of the pull-out elements of books so as to replace the originals which have been lost by other borrowers.

*All libraries may deliver their Storytime sessions online, through a digital platform, such as Facebook Video, Youtube, Vimeo.

Storytime may either be live streamed or a library may make available a recording of Storytime online, provided that the recording is non-downloadable to the public. If practicable, the live steam or recordings will be made available only to library patrons who have signed in to access their library’s website.

This policy is temporary and will remain in force whilst COVID-19 remains as a WHO-declared pandemic.

Once this period has ended, libraries agree to destroy all recordings, and take down any online recordings. Libraries agree to provide bibliographic details of the featured book with any published recording of Storytime, including the title, author, illustrator and publisher.This image is putting the logos and names of the organisation at the top of the page to make it seem more authoritative and represent the interest groups

The challenge of reading regularly with Australian Reading Hour Ambassador, Rachael Johns

The challenge of reading regularly

It’s perhaps one of those paradoxical quirks of humankind like avoiding eating our greens and exercising: we are increasingly learning the benefits of reading, yet signs show there’s a reduction in the pastime. With competition over entertainment options, and less time in busy schedules, what’s really at the heart of not maintaining a reading practice in adulthood, even if we really want to?

International bestselling women’s fiction author Rachael Johns spoke with us about the difficulties of reading regularly.

With another book out in October ( Just One Wish published by Harlequin Australia ) it’s a busy year for the author and mum of three boys from Western Australia. Rachael is this year one of the Australian Reading Hour Ambassadors, something she says is a “real honour.” She’s keen to share the message that reading is a joyful, relaxing, accessible – and crucial – skill to develop and sustain.

“I’m excited to be part of ARH as I want to break down misconceptions about reading; a lot of which is carried from growing up. I want people to experience reading who haven’t given it a chance in adulthood. The prospect of bringing non-readers to reading is exciting.”

On what holds us back from reading more she says, “We’re blessed with so many entertainment options these days, but in our lifestyle there’s pressure to be available 24/7. Teachers are replying to emails at 10.30 at night. We get calls throughout the day and night. We’re always busy and if you’re not, it’s almost like there’s something wrong. We’re expected to achieve and do so much and that takes away time from reading.”

Reading can be a time for happy discovery as a young child. We read silly, colourful stories that somehow, as we grow, are not seen as serious forms of learning. “Many parents unfortunately don’t value reading as much as maybe Maths and think that picture books and fiction are just fun and frivolous. It’s important for kids that books and stories are interesting. Reading fiction can be as powerful as learning from a history book,” Rachael says.

As a former English teacher, Rachael believes some of the reasons we don’t carry reading into our adult lives, besides getting busy with work, kids and life commitments, is down to challenging high school English texts.

“The books they make you read in high school are challenging for teenagers! We had to read Far From the Manning Crowd. I didn’t know what was going on and it was far too long. So many good books are out there but not in the curriculum. I think what happens is we are forced to read these hard books in high school, so reading feels like a chore. We forget that we ever enjoyed reading as a kid and associate reading with school and bad things.”

She’s seen this legacy broken by popular titles. “Books that people have mocked like Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey have brought people back to reading. One of my colleagues shared that she hadn’t read a book since high school and was recommended Fifty Shades of Grey. She read it and said “It was just so easy to read!” I told her there are a lot of books that are easy to read. Many have the misconception that reading is hard.”

Shame and other emotions around reading may impact on our reading habits too. In an article about social media competing with reading time, it opens with the idea that our relationship to reading is likely defined by guilt.

“It’s funny, I actually haven’t thought about guilt in terms of not reading before. I have more so felt regret or a wish to read. It’s possible we feel guilty taking time to read instead of feeling guilty about not reading as well.”

“Another feeling I have about reading is overwhelm. There are so many good books out there that I want to read, but there’s just not enough time in the world. I buy way more books than I will ever get a chance to read and I almost feel anxious about the books I won’t get to.”

“There are so many benefits to reading we don’t think about. It’s almost like reading is a luxury or something we don’t have time for – like having a massage or getting a facial. But reading can help you relax and feel great and it’s much more accessible than going to a beautician. Libraries provide free access and are fabulous spaces for quiet time.”

When writing her own books Rachael says she’s aware of making her stories accessible. “I want everyone to be able to read books. As much as I love literary fiction, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t want people to say, “I’m not smart enough to read books.” Often my editor reminds me to use the most simple word, not to talk down to people, but to make the story clear and smooth. I would prefer that my characters connect with people and offer universal experiences. I want my writing to be as accessible as possible.”

Interestingly, the ABC Life article claims that social media, often touted as one of the main competitors to reading books, is an enabler of reading and nurturing a reading practice.

“I do agree with this article when I think about it,” Rachael says. “Things that really are a hindrance to reading include Netflix and online games. But there are a lot of online book clubs and platforms. People find friends within online book communities.

“These days we are often quite isolated and may not know our neighbours. A lot of people are lonely. The online book community gives them a chance to talk with people and feel connected. I know that Reese Witherspoon’s book club, which has 1.1 million followers, is doing great things for reading. She’s making reading fashionable and cool. There are a lot of people who only read one or two books a year and they are reading the books that these celebrities are pushing. They’re doing good work and social media is facilitating it.

Challenges on Good Reads and Instagram encourage people to read – as well as the Australian Reading Challenge. “Despite the Facebook scroll syndrome” Rachael says, “social media does help people get excited about reading. It’s about setting boundaries to find balance and being your own parents.”

If we’re not reading books as much as we used to be, and reading more so from social media posts that are shorter, what might this mean for our future? Are we headed for a post-literate dystopia?

“As long as we’re consuming stories, it’s okay, I guess. We might be listening to audiobooks or reading ebooks. If we did give up books and reading, literacy levels would drop.

“Coming from a teaching background and having three sons, I can see the difference from the kids who have been read to and the ones who are readers themselves from childhood and importantly, through adolescence. Those who don’t read are generally not as good spellers and they don’t have a wide vocabulary.

“It’s not just English this affects but every single subject. If you can’t read the questions in maths, you don’t understand how things are phrased in maths.

“Having low literacy also makes communicating with people harder. So in a world without reading, it would have a flow on effect. Books do spread knowledge. Reading a post, or even an encyclopedia about a place is one thing, but there’s nothing like reading a fiction book where you become the main character and experience the place as they do. We will still have TV, games and movies but we might not take the content on as much. So that would be very sad. How would we document history? It would be so easy to put or gain everything online but books regulate things more.”

Books and reading have shaped Rachael’s life, so how much does she get to read now, with such a busy schedule? “I read every day. I always have one book on the go, sometimes more than one if I have an audiobook going as well. I read every single night before I go to bed from ten minutes to an hour. Maybe once or twice a year that doesn’t happen.

“I always have my book with me for something to do if I’m waiting. I often go early to pick up the kids from school to get a good parking spot and read for 20 minutes before the kids through the gates. On the weekend, I allow myself a bit more time to read. Audiobooks have definitely helped me to read more because I can do that while exercising or driving. Audiobooks for kids are undervalued. They might complain about fighting and bickering on long drives but audiobooks are the saviour!

“And reading always makes me feel good. I became a writer because I love reading and story. It always makes me feel happy and relaxes me. It’s my treat. I know that sounds awful as it sounds like I feel guilty doing it, but reading is just so important.”

We asked Rachael for some tips for returning to reading:

  • Joining a book club is a good idea. There are many niche book clubs. Be sure you find the reads that are easiest for you to get into.
  • Read to your kids – this can create a routine for them and you might be inspired to read on.
  • Read short stories or novellas – there are plenty that are free and available online. They will be quicker to consume and give a sense of achievement.
  • Ask your friend who knows you well to recommend something for you.
  • Walk into a bookstore or library and say you’d like help finding a book. Staff members love these requests.
  • Try audiobooks. It’s a great way to consume a story that may help you appreciate books again. They’re also relaxing to get into.

For those who already read, here are some tips to increase your reading practice:

  • Audiobooks – give them a try if you haven’t.
  • Prioritise reading and have a routine. Read just as you’ve woken or before you go to bed.
  • Have a bath instead of a shower and read in it!
  • Always have a book with you because there are so many times in the day you can get stuck where you could be reading.
  • Try a speed reading course. Someone at work did one for business purposes and it helped them get through more books.
  • Keep a list of what you read and post it on Facebook. It allows me to look back, spurs me on and challenges me to read more the next year.
  • Join online book communities to keep you accountable.

The Australian Reading Hour is on 19 September 2019.

The Australian Reading Challenge is open now.


Out October 2019.