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What Does it Mean to be Literate?

What Matters Writing Competition 2023

Recently, Radio National’s ‘The Minefield’ aired a wonderful discussion on literacy entitled ‘What does it mean to be literate – and is it under threat?’

Click here to listen to the Radio National discussion

At the forefront of this discussion is the problem which resonates with everyone who works in education (and possibly every parent/carer) – a resistance to spending time reading in favour of the quick swipe, the speedy scan, the info grab. Again – let’s blame the usual culprits – TikTok, Insta, Snapchat!

Few of us – adults, teens and children – have time for books which require deep reading, focused attention, effort even. Apparently, we prefer words we just have to look at rather than words we have to read and actually process and think about. In doing so, however, we are missing out on actually improving our literacy.

To quote the program’s guest speaker, Maryanne Wolf (Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the University of California in Los Angeles), The time and cognitive-resource-demanding requirements of the deep reading process is getting lost in the transition from a literacy-based culture to a digital age.” 

Year 12 Enjoying Reading. 10 minutes each day, will have a significant impact on your son’s wider learning capacity and confidence, not to mention the benefits to their reading ability and mental health.

As an English and Literacy teacher of teens saturated in digital media, who knows all too well the challenges students face when presented with difficult texts, I have set myself the goal of ensuring that students ‘read deeply’ as often as possible. Yes, we will practise the skills of ‘skimming, scanning, sifting’. Students are already quite adept at this.

It is the making of connections that requires real effort, but brings the greatest reward. Through deep reading, students allow themselves to be surprised and moved somehow by what they read, because they bother to make the effort to connect with what they already know about themselves, and about life in the real world (not the digital world). 

In our Year 7 and Year 8 Library Reading classes, our goal is to ensure that students read for pleasure. If students can read deeply for just 20-30 minutes, they will also improve their ability to read for pleasure, while becoming truly literate. 

As quoted in the radio program ‘The Minefield’, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said: “When I read a poem or narrative with feeling, surely something goes on in me which does not go on when I merely skim the lines for information.” We know it won’t happen immediately, but with this single, simple message and a good book in hand, that ‘something’ is sure to happen for our students at Waverley College in 2023.



All Year 7 students have been given a NAPLAN writing booklet to complete for home-learning over the next few weeks in preparation for the NAPLAN writing test in Week 7. All the resources can be located on the Year 7 English CANVAS page.

If parents/carers or students have any questions or enquiries about this work, please email Ms Mary Ryan at

This is just one aspect of a holistic approach by all teachers to ensure that students in both Year 7 and Year 9 are well prepared for the NAPLAN tests taking place in Term 1 this year.


The Whitlam Institute’s Annual ‘What Matters? Writing Competition’ is Back for 2023!  

For nearly 20 years, the Whitlam Institute’s ‘What Matters? Writing Competition’ has been empowering students to raise their voices and feel that their perspectives are valuable, no matter their age, background or point of view. 

Part writing exercise, part civics and citizenship activity, ‘What Matters?’ is the perfect platform for students to express what they care about and why.  

Visit their website to learn more about the competition, get inspired by past entries, explore classroom resources, and view the amazing prizes on offer. 

Click here to view information about the What Matters Writing Competition

Entries can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or prose of 600 words or less, and can be submitted quickly online.

Entries close Friday, 5 May 2023.