In the tropical Far North of Queensland, the Cooktown District Community Centre has been receiving the ILF’s Books 4 Toddlers packs for the past four years, the first boxes having been delivered in 2012. The Centre runs regular playgroups in Cooktown, as well outreach playgroups in three remote Aboriginal communities – Wujal Wujal, Hope Vale and Laura.
The program involves a lot of driving as the books, toys, craft materials and other playgroup equipment have to be taken from one community to another. From Cooktown (which is 3.5 hours on the road from Cairns) it’s a 3 hour round trip to Laura, a 2 hour round trip to Wujal Wujal and 1.5 hours to Hope Vale and back. This is when the weather’s dry and the roads are driveable. Sometimes in the wet season, and particularly after heavy rains and cyclones, roads may be cut off for days at a time as creeks and rivers rise, and playgroups cancelled.
The Centre’s playgroup educators actively engage parents and carers in what is known as ‘conversational reading’.
‘This is where the books we receive from ILF come in beautifully,’ says Cathy Jene, the Parenting and Family Support Team Leader at the Centre. ‘The kids really get excited by the books, particularly the ones with bright colours.’
Mostly it’s mothers who bring their children to the playgroups and participate in the reading activities and yarning circles with them, but often it’s a grandmother or an auntie who comes along. Some of the adults themselves become quite engrossed in the books.
‘The parents really love the ones with Indigenous stories and content.’
In these outlying communities, Guugu Yimithirr or Kuku Yalangi as well as English is spoken.
‘We encourage the parents and carers to speak and sing in language to the children,’ says Cathy.
One playgroup educator is fluent in both these northern Queensland languages and is able to translate some of the books for the toddlers and their carers.
In 2015 ILF also delivered Books 4 Children packs to the Centre, for older children attending the Out of School Hours Care Service.
‘We make very good use of all the books we receive from the ILF,’ Cathy says. ‘It’s a wonderful program and the communities in Far North Queensland really appreciate it.’
NOTE: Image is from another Book Buzz program (no images available from Cooktown).