Ready, set, go — the 2020 Great Book Swap is up and running - Education Matters Magazine

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Ready, set, go — the 2020 Great Book Swap is up and running

Sign up your school for the Great Book Swap now and go in the draw to win a one-hour virtual visit from Playschool’s favourite host, Justine Clarke, music superstar and author, Josh Pyke, or pop star Jessica Mauboy.

For much of this year, many schools across Australia have been closed on and off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, several of the key programs and events the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) had in place for 2020 were put on hold — including the perennially popular Great Book Swap (GBS). The idea of the GBS is that each student swaps a favourite, already-read book for another one — in exchange for a gold coin ($1 or $2) donation.

A not-for-profit charity which receives no government funding whatsoever, ILF’s Great Book Swap is a key fundraising event that gives schools and students an easy and fun opportunity to support the charity, while at the same time learn about Indigenous culture and literature. Signing up is an easy 5 step process and once registered, you’ll be assigned a Language House and receive teacher’s notes, fact sheets, maps, and access to videos related to that language group.

ILF firmly believes that ‘reading opens doors’. The now 10-year-old organisation is driven by its vision of ensuring equity of educational opportunity and access to literacy resources for all Australian children, no matter where they live.

Through its core Book Supply program, ILF gifts new, high-quality and culturally relevant books to remote Indigenous communities. The books are carefully chosen by a panel of educators and experts from the Australian book industry, and community members and Elders decide which books from the lists will best meet their own community’s needs.

To date, ILF has gifted nearly 500,000 books – 40 per cent of which have been written or illustrated by Australian Indigenous authors and illustrators – to more than 400 remote communities across the country. This year alone, the Foundation has gifted over 97,000 books, primarily for families who have few or no books at home for their school-age and younger children to read and enjoy.

Early in 2020, after many months of intensive planning and organisation, ILF realised that this year’s GBS – their major annual fundraiser – would not be able to go ahead as anticipated, given the necessary precautions in place across the education sector to help stop the spread of the virus. So, way back in March, the Foundation shelved its GBS plans, and recommended that schools postpone holding a book swap until community health risks eased.

Now, with the number of coronavirus cases across Australian rapidly declining, schools in most states and territories are open again — and in Victoria, a reopening is imminent. Happily, this means that the 2020 GBS can get up and running.

Already, there have been 210 registrations for the GBS, but the Foundation is aiming for an additional 300 schools to register.

“At the beginning of the year, our target was 1000 schools, but we’ve had to reevaluate,” said Executive Director, Karen Williams. “We know Term 4 is a busy time, but feedback from teachers has encouraged us to promote the Swap during the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week, from 17 to 23 October. It aligns beautifully and enables students to celebrate the joys of books and reading alongside the spirit of giving,” she said.

Once registered, schools receive a free resource kit from ILF to help promote the event and tools and resources to learn more about Indigenous language and culture.

If you can’t host a GBS during Book Week, don’t worry, registrations will stay open until Monday 30 November.  If you want the resource kit, early registration is strongly encouraged.

The Foundation is hopeful that, by the end of the last term of 2020, some 500 Australian schools and colleges will have held fundraising book swaps. The monies raised from the GBS will help ILF to distribute even more books to children living in remote Indigenous communities next year. Every $10 raised puts a book in the hands of a child in remote Australia.

“It’s a wonderful way for students of all ages and capabilities to engage with literacy and language — and learn more about Indigenous culture. And it’s great fun too!” says Ms Williams.

Five easy steps to holding a GBS

  1. Register your school or college’s GBS with ILF here and receive your Language House and the free GBS resources kit. Plus go in the draw for a virtual visit from Justine Clarke, Josh Pyke or Jessica Mauboy.
  2. Promote the date and time of your GBS, and where it will be held, to your school community.
  3. Run the swap, let the students enjoy themselves and make sure everyone involved gets a swapped book to take home.
  4. Send the donations you collect to ILF. And don’t forget to give them some feedback on how your GBS went. They love getting photos too!
  5. Share stories and snaps of your successful GBS with your school community – via your school’s Facebook page, website or newsletter, at assembly or in a presentation to your class.

Some tips for keeping your GBS safe

  1. Spread the event over several hours – or even days – to limit the numbers of book swappers at any given time.
  2. Organise your GBS ‘class by class’ or even ‘year by year’.
  3. Encourage the teachers and other staff at your school to hold their own separate GBS in the staffroom or to swap books individually. (Learning what books others in your school love is a great connector.)

“Thank you in advance for sharing the value of giving and the joy of books,” said Ms Williams. “And remember, all donations, big or small, make a difference.”

Register now.

For more information call ILF on 02 9280 0644, visit or email

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