THE SHIRE of Hay has sparked a unique alliance with the Holroyd Shire in Sydney - and together they're working to better literacy in both communities.
The launch of Paint Hay Read was held recently with reading mascot Paddy the Possum introduced to more than 500 children.
The friendship between the shires had been initiated five years ago, said Hay Shire Council general manager Allen Dwyer.
Mr Dwyer said the program was benefiting both communities.
"A lot of us take for granted that everybody has reasonable numeracy and literacy skills many people hide the fact they can't read," he said.
The Holroyd Shire had a large ethnic population with many speaking English as their second language, Mr Dwyer said.
"They're a largely ethnic population there and they're fascinated by the bush," he said.
"Literacy and numeracy are major problems for both Australians and ethnics and it's a common problem for different background reasons.
"This program is educational and it works really well; both councils are 100 per cent behind it and the community has embraced it."
A series of books has been released using the possum mascots, cousins Paddy and Poppy, to encourage reading from a young age.
Local Sandra Ireson, "Belmont", Booligal, said the friendship between the shires also promoted what rural areas had to offer.
"It's on step towards giving people living in the Holroyd Shire some education on the country," she said.
"This is the first book on Poppy visiting the country and it will be distributed throughout the shire.
"The whole Hay community has also donated books that will be around our town for visitors or locals with children to use."