In Kununurra, in the far east of the Kimberley region in Western Australia, just 37 kilometres from the Northern Territory border, books from ILF Book Supply program are being used during child health checks conducted at the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service.
When children come in for either a regular check up or a minor medical procedure, often they are wary, unsure of what will happen. Child health nurse Helena Dowie finds that sitting down with the child and reading a book to them first makes them feel more comfortable with the surroundings and much less anxious.
‘It also gives us a chance to see if the child has any developmental problems, for example speech delay,’ says Helena.
There are no books and few toys in these children’s homes. So at the end of each consultation the child is given a book to take home with them.
‘I say to them, “Let’s choose a book together,”’ Helena explains. ‘Then I write their name on the inside of the cover, so they really feel it is theirs to keep. The kids are very sharing. They pass the books around, especially with their siblings. They all leave a bit happier with their book to take home.’
In the clinic, Crunchy Croc (by Sam Lloyd), with its accompanying hand puppet, is always a hot favourite.
‘The kids here all know what a crocodile is and can really interact when I’m reading the story to them.’
Also popular are the Alphaprints series of board books, with their raised, embossed fingerprint designs, and flashcards based on illustrations from the perennial classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle).
‘The parents love the books too and they interact with them as well. Many can’t read themselves, but they really like it that their kids have books.’
The health service operates mainly from its premises in Kununurra, but also makes visits to the Aboriginal communities around the town. And each Tuesday and Thursday, a doctor – along with either a medical student or a nurse – makes the trip to more remote communities. Glen Hill is about 120 km away to the south-west, a good one and a half hours on the road. Doon Doon is 105 km in the same direction.
Often a big mob of little children will be sitting around with a parent, grandparent or older sibling reading to them.
‘We love the [Book Supply] program,’ says Helena. ‘It’s amazing. It works really well for us. How awesome is it that we can get those books!’
NOTE: Image taken during an ILF field trip to Kununurra, but is not from Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service. No images were available from Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service.