Rhonda Brain OAM to take part in Aussie book relay from Perth to the Pacific

Next week Parkes' Rhonda Brain OAM will join a small band of volunteers for Paint Australia REaD, the Aussie book relay that's running from Perth to the Pacific, and she's received $5000 to help her on her way.

The national relay will begin from Western Australia's Parliament House on March 20, eventually finishing on the shores of the Pacific in Wollongong at a Simultaneous Story Time event hosted by Paint the Gong REaD in May.

The Paint Parkes REaD founder and other volunteers from around the country will travel across Australia, stopping at communities en route - including Parkes - to celebrate with families the importance of reading with their children right from birth.

“It is incredible to think that a project that was founded in our town has grown to a nationwide movement,” Rhonda said.

“It is now in over 80 communities in four states, and growing.

"Take a bow, Parkes, you are an outstanding community where visions become realities."

Rhonda will be driving her red Paint the Town REaD Hyundai to Adelaide, where both she and her car will travel on the Indian Pacific to Perth.

Two volunteers from Lapstone, in the Blue Mountains, will fly to Perth for the relay and join Rhonda in her Hyundai for the trip across Australia. While members of Paint the Swan REaD will accompany them to the South Australian border in another vehicle, and the same scenario will happen in South Australia.

It's not the first time Rhonda has been involved in a reading relay to areas across the country.

In 2005, a team from Parkes did a major book relay through Western NSW.

In 2008, that same team read in Upper House of State Parliament and they "Painted" Martin Place REaD.

In 2016, the Parkes team attended a reception at Admiralty House, the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia in Sydney.

Paint the Town REaD (PTTR) has become a small, not-for-profit company with tax deductibility status.

Rhonda said funding is dependent on sponsorship and donations, with all board members, except one, working voluntarily.

"As the seventh National PTTR Conference is being held in Fremantle, it was decided that the relay would commence in Perth," she said.

The Governor of Western Australia Kim Beasley will open the conference and a state reception will be held at Parliament House Western Australia for conference delegates, during which the national relay will be launched.

The relay will continue for about six weeks of travelling, arriving in Parkes on May 10. 

Rhonda is turning to Parkes community members and groups to make a tax-deductible donation to help cover her travelling costs, such as fuel, accommodation and food.

"As much as possible, the team will reduce costs by staying with relatives, friends and colleagues, along the way," she said.

"But there are still many nights that need to covered. The cost of fuel in the more remote places is over $2 a litre."

Rhonda said $250 will fund half a day and $400 will fund one day.

"Of course any contribution will be greatly appreciated," she said.

Rhonda had the opportunity to catch up with Member for Orange Phil Donato at this year's Parkes Elvis Festival where they discussed funding for the initiative.

Mr Donato contacted NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes who granted $5000 to go towards the national relay.

Mr Donato presented the cheque to Rhonda in Cooke Park on March 1.

"I really appreciate how supportive Phil Donato is," Rhonda said.

"From zero to three years old, that's when the brain grows and you can increase your child's IQ by as much as 30 points by reading to them in those early years.

"Some of the places we are visiting are low socioeconomic areas with low language skills entering school.

"Psychologists say our three biggest emotional needs are a sense of worth, belonging and competency - in a very real way reading addresses all of those things."

Paint the Town REaD initiative was founded and developed in Parkes in 1997, then known as Birth to Kindergarten, and to this day is still run by a small group of passionate and like-minded people.

“I was only too happy to support Paint the Town REaD in achieving its goals, I know the $5000 will go a long way towards promoting the importance of reading and writing," Mr Donato said.

“Thank you to Rhonda and the whole team for the great work they do."

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