Coronavirus pandemic sees Parkes' annual reading day go virtual for the first time

FILMING: Alex Sammut-Paul (nurse), Natalie Quince (minister), Tanya Job and Helen Cusack (cooks), Jess Cooke (miner), Sam Quince (dog catcher), Steve Farrell (pharmacist).
FILMING: Alex Sammut-Paul (nurse), Natalie Quince (minister), Tanya Job and Helen Cusack (cooks), Jess Cooke (miner), Sam Quince (dog catcher), Steve Farrell (pharmacist).

During these unprecedented times of the coronavirus pandemic, Parkes' Paint the Town REaD event is going ahead this year but in a form we have never seen before.

The annual reading day, this year held on September 18, will be virtual.

It means that instead of gathering in Cooke Park for singing and dancing, and traversing the town's main street completing activities, children will remain at school and recreate the fun and learning in their own school yards and classrooms.

This year's theme will be 'Paint Parkes Uniformly REaD'.

"The reading day is going ahead!" Committee member Shonel Redfern from Neighbourhood Central said with excitement.

"With everything that is happening we were working out how we could do this."

Parkes' Paint the Town REaD committee has been busy planning the event, making adjustments to how the event will take place this year.

Organisers have been producing videos, which began two weeks ago, for schools to watch on the day and they have involved people in specific professions and uniforms.

The videos also involve funny skits, Shonel said.

Since the event began as Birth to Kindergarten in August 1997 and the first reading day held in 1998, it's the first time the event will be held remotely and virtual.

The committee is still calling on Parkes' business community to get involved like they do every year by decorating their shops with anything red.

Reading day posters are going to be distributed for shops to use.

And children are still being encouraged to dress in red or in a uniform like a nurse or builder.

"We're looking at getting our school principals involved and everyone is keen for the day to go ahead," Shonel said.

"We're leaving it up to individual schools to decide if they want to host the reading day as a whole school event or just for infants.

"The video (the committee is producing) will be uploaded on You Tube and on our Facebook page so others can view it."

Parkes is the birthplace of the Paint the Town REaD reading and literature campaign that has now spread across the country.

The first reading day in 1998 saw the attendance of Prime Possum and the then manager of Prime Orange and various representatives from the Department of Education.

A civic reception was hosted by the Parkes mayor at the time, the late Robert Wilson OAM, who founder Rhonda Brain described as an outstanding supporter of the initiative.

So too is current Mayor Ken Keith OAM, she said.

The event's name changed to Paint the Town REaD after organisers used it as a great theme in 2003.

"Hence we adopted that name, as it suggests fun and celebration," Rhonda said.