“The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is making a positive contribution to improving literacy outcomes in remote Indigenous communities and helping build community capacity”, say the authors of the first major independent evaluation of The Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s programs.
Book Business was conducted by Queensland-based early literacy consultants, Beverly Broughton and Dr Deborah Gahan, with a brief to:
· Assess the program’s effectiveness,
· Identify the points of difference compared to other literacy programs
· Make key recommendations for the future.
It found: “ILF is a lean organisation, getting best value from its activities by working with partners, inspiring fund-raising and sheer hard work on the part of management and staff”.
During the past six months, the evaluators conducted research in the field, traveling out to several remote locations, including Warburton in WA and WIlcannia/Menindee in NSW. They also talked to the Foundation’s many partners and stakeholders, covering all aspects of the programs from book selection to the ways that books are used in the early literacy program, Book Buzz, in locations across Australia.
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is a not-for-profit charity of the Australian Book Industry and aims to address literacy levels in isolated and remote areas of Australia through its book supply programs. In the past three years the Foundation has delivered over 85,000 books to more than 200 communities across Australia.
Book Business found that there are a number of factors that make the Foundation’s work unique and some of these include:
• ILF works in partnership, building relationships that are based on respect, listening, collaboration and responsiveness
• Unique expertise from book industry, underpins the excellent quality of the book lists. This quality and effectiveness is endorsed by responses from the ‘grass roots’
• ILF is engaged in a generational program in which books can be the catalyst for change
• There is a groundswell of support from communities for the books and resources that ILF supplied as witnessed by one elder who said: Literacy not only opens up the kids world but also opens up other world views for them (Murray Butcher, Indigenous Culture & Language Officer). And another comment: We see our mums and dads and their children sitting and reading and rediscovering their own culture (William Conlon, Counsellor, Charleville & Western areas AITSIS)
• The program makes a significant contribution through its advocacy work to children in the general community who learn about social justice issues and their place in the world in relation to others (this is done through the Great Book Swap program run on Indigenous Literacy Day)
The Foundation has raised nearly $3 million dollars since its inception in 2004. In 2013-2017, it will focus its resources on early literacy, working with parents, community members and other parts of the community. For further information/interviews please contact Karen Williams, Executive Director, (02) 9698 2884 or email: Karen@indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au
A summary of the evaluator’s findings are:
• ILF is a small, lean organisation with a clear focus on its main purpose: to provide high quality books to remote Indigenous communities – very welcome additions to community literacy environments. Working positively toward long-term goals.
• The programs: Book Supply, Book Buzz and Community Identified Projects ensure that books are relevant to community activities. Special projects promote writing and translating of books for communities; author workshops encourage children’s own writing. Programs are endorsed by responses from “the grass roots”.
• By working efficiently with partners, publishers and booksellers to access books; and local communities and like-minded organizations within communities to use the books, ILF achieves maximum value for its resources.
• A distinctive feature of ILF, and a point of difference, is collaboration with remote Indigenous communities aimed at increasing community decision making and ownership of programs, thus building long term sustainability, while contributing to community capacity building.
• Partnership with key people and services in communities is a “grass roots” approach that minimizes top-down management and increases responsiveness to local circumstances. Activities with partners range from books to extend the resources of the 21 Indigenous Knowledge Centres in North Queensland and Torres Strait Islands; and supply of books to remote family support services, schools and playgroups for sharing with families.
• ILF programs are not imposed on communities. Resources are provided to be used in communities in ways that best suit community circumstances. This “no strings attached” approach has resulted in varied and imaginative local strategies: Yakanarra community school, WA has established a thriving school-community shared library; In the Roper Gulf Shire a varied range of books provided in aged care facilities provide enjoyment for adults and promote interactions with visiting children; in playgroups across several states parents and children enjoy storytime together, building a foundation for literacy learning at school; and at Warburton, WA, at community request, books are translated into local language by playgroup mothers.
• A key strength of ILF programs is the quality of books in the various booklists providing resources for babies to elderly people. The book selection panel represents an impressive aggregation of expertise in publishing, education, and resourcing, that results in lists of high quality books selected from the most recent lists of Australian publishers. Criteria for selection prioritise Indigenous characters and content, Indigenous authorship, interest and appeal for readers from young children to adults, and high quality in both literary and production standards.
• The appropriateness of the booklists is evident in the enthusiastic and positive responses from communities – “a child gets excited about the different animals in the possum and wattle book - that is priceless”; “children have access to books to take home that they wouldn’t normally have”; books give readers “a clear perspective of their heritage and who they are today”.
• Achieving the goals of ILF is a long-term project that demands commitment and being in it “for the long haul”.
• Fund raising activities that capture the enthusiasm and commitment of the wider Australian public carry a clear message of awareness-raising and reconciliation. Children in schools participating in the Great Book Swap clearly get the message. This message is also taken up by volunteers who offer their skills to work with ILF.
For further information please contact Karen Williams (02) 96982884
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