Alan Bruce reading from
Alan Bruce reading from

Men do it by the book

Alan Bruce said he felt like a stalker when he got Aboriginal author Kath Walker to autograph a copy of her book The Dawn is at Hand. Mr Bruce was only a boy of about 12 when the book was published in 1966, and he said he didn't know any Aboriginal people at the time but he really wanted to meet the author because the book had a profound effect on him.

“This was a very special book for me. I felt like a groupie when I went up to her and I told her, 'This book changed my life. You changed my life'.”

Mr Bruce was speaking to a group of Year 3 and 4 students at Alstonville Public School as part of a project called Men Read Too, which was about men sharing their passion for reading and showing kids how important it is, no matter what profession you work in.

About 40 men took part in the project; from real estate agents, small business operators, retirees, farmers and council planners.

They all talked about their reading practices, both at work and at home.

Mr Bruce works for the Department of Ageing, Disabilities and Homecare and brought in copies of some of his work reading material, which included things like OH&S regulations and various acts relating to due diligence in the workplace.

“Most people would find this incredibly boring, but I really enjoy it because it means I can help people by giving them the right advice and hopefully stop people getting hurt when they are at work.

“But when I am at home this is what I like to read,” he said holding up a stack of crime fiction books by authors such as Ian Rankin, Quintin Jardine and Stuart MacBride. “My kids like to watch TV, but I like to read.”

It seems Mr Bruce really is a bit of a literary groupie and he once met JK Rowling, the woman who has single-handedly revitalised reading for kids by creating the Harry Potter series.

The story goes that Mr Bruce had tracked down a bar in Scotland where Ian Rankin's character Rebus liked to drink.

It had a reputation as being somewhere that writers liked to hang out, and on the night Mr Bruce was there, JK Rowling was happily talking with anyone who wandered over for a drink and a chat.

Mr Bruce also read to the class from JRR Tolkien's classic The Hobbit, taking on the character's voices and asking the kids to solve some of Gollum's riddles.

There was an impressive show of hands of kids who had read at least some of The Lord of The Rings and an even greater show of hands for those who had seen the movies.

There was then conversation about how JK Rowling had resisted having her books made into films for a long time because she wanted children to have their own images of what Harry and Hogwart's looked like.

Also talking to the Year 3 and 4 class was Harry Pampel, a retiree who said he loved to read the newspaper every day.

“I was always given books for my birthday and when we celebrated St Nicholas' Day in Holland when I was a kid, so my interest in books goes back to a very young age,” he told the class. “I still like to read books, but there is something about holding a newspaper I really like.”

The kids were also able to share with their male mentors the things they liked to read.

The day was organised as part of Literacy and Numeracy Week and principal Lorraine Bryant said it was also an opportunity to promote the role of men in children's education.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for the children to see people from all different walks of life in the community showing that reading is important,” she said. “One gentleman said it had given him faith in the education system again.”

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