The idea that has stayed with me from the Chatter Matters symposium, “Communicating: The Heart of Literacy,” is the importance of play to improving literacy. I am an avid writer and reader and was raised in a highly literate household. I realised during an exercise at the symposium in which we shared our own experiences with literacy that my love for reading came from the fact that it was a form of play and socialisation. The childhood books that have stayed important to me are those my mum read to my sister and I, many of which have plots with play as their core. These include children’s classics like Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons or Enid Blyton’s The Adventurous Four. As I got older and began to exclusively read independently, the most important books became those with worlds that inspired make-believe play with my sister and friends – Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Nancy Drew series. As a teenager, even though make-believe play was no longer as acceptable, I lived on the edges of fandom where characters and worlds are the basis of cosplay and ‘fanfic’: new forms of play. That was when I started writing my own stories in my teens, and I completed my first novel draft because when I arrived at school everyday, my best friend at the time would put her hand out for my notebook and share the story. Unfortunately, she moved schools and the novel stayed a draft. There was no point in writing when it was no longer a shared game. My next major project was a graphic novel series, Roommates, with another friend. Roommates, like the books I read with family and friends, became a shared language, an ongoing game of imagination and in-jokes. If we are going to improve literacy, I think we need to do it through make-believe and laughter. The essential skills of reading and writing should not be stressful or forced but tools for play, imagination, and community. Literacy is necessary, but it can also be fun, and this needs to be demonstrated at every step of the teaching and learning process.
Lily Stojevski is a university student and writer with a passionate interest in literacy and story-telling. She has been published in Tasmania 40 Degrees South, the Edinburgh University Dangerous Women Project, and Platform magazine. She is a former board member of the Story Island Project and has been writer-in-residence for Alzheimers Tasmania and Twitch’s “Young Writers in the Huon Valley Project.” Currently, she is in the final year of a Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in English and History and working part time as a tour guide with Hobart Free Walking Tours. Lily was also an attendee at the Communicating: The Heart of Literacy symposium held at Government House in November 2018.