The reading revolution

How change begins with the under-fives

Featured in

  • Published 20220127
  • ISBN: 978-1-92221-65-8
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

WHEN BOB FITZGERALD, Chief Inspector of Blacktown Police Area Command, was in Year 4, he stole a book from a library in South Australia. It was Babar the Elephant and he couldn’t understand a word of it. He’d been to thirteen schools by then, and at none had he learnt to read.

That year, a teacher called Mrs Gallagher took an interest in Bob and with her help over the next few years he slowly learnt to read. ‘The first book I fell in love with was The Lord of the Rings. I read it nine times,’ he says. For a kid who had lived in twenty-seven different houses and experienced much in his life he wanted to escape from, the acquisition of literacy was life-changing. ‘It helped me get out of the cycle that I wanted to be out of,’ he says. ‘And the escapism of it…gave me an opportunity to disappear from the real world.’ Fitzgerald is now an avid reader. He’s been at Blacktown in Western Sydney for thirty-eight years and makes a point of having books everywhere at his station. Police officers keep them in cars as a way to soothe and distract children when they’re called to a domestic dispute. Fitzgerald regularly sets up bookstalls at local fairs, and there’s a book box in the station foyer that he replenishes. ‘We got a lot of people who report on bail, and most of these books go with those people,’ he says. He has a mantra: you can’t steal a book.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

About the author

Catherine Keenan

A former journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, Catherine Keenan is the co-founder and executive director of Story Factory. In 2016 she was recognised...

More from this edition

Prismatic perspectives

IntroductionClick here to listen to Editor Ashley Hay read her introduction ‘Prismatic perspectives’. IN 1816, DAVID Brewster, a Scottish mathematician and physicist, invented a new kind of optical device....

Performance enhancement

ReportageIT’S A STINKING hot Saturday morning in December and I’m dressed as an elf at a rundown shopping mall in Sydney’s western suburbs. Four...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.