5 Reasons Why Kids Deserve Access to Books in First Languages

5 Reasons Why Kids Deserve Access to Books in First Languages

1. Books in First Languages strengthen identity and wellbeing 

For First Nations children in remote Australia, there is an enormous and long-term positive impact of having access to culturally relevant books, audio stories, and animations in First Languages.

Learning to read in your First Language helps to strengthen identity, pride, culture, and connection to Community and Country. Seeing your language written in a published book sends a clear message that your language is acknowledged, important and worth maintaining.

Our Community Publishing Projects has published books in 31 different languages from Walmajarri in the Kimberley region to Arabana in South Australia, Kriol in the Katherine region, and Tiwi in the Tiwi Islands. 

A current project at ILF is the translation of several well-known titles such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where is the Green Sheep? into up to 14 languages! Imagine the thrill a child will get when they open one of their favourite books and it is written in the language they speak at home. 

ILF staff Tictac Moore and Bella Puruntatameri with the Barramundi Book published book, Arlamunga in Tiwi Language. Photo: Mamanata consulting

2. Learning to read in your First Language sets a child up for reading success. 

Abundant research shows that if you learn to read in your First Language, you have more success learning a second, third or fourth language, like English. Having a story in a First Language that reflects a child’s life in Community, helps to engage children to read.

ILF’s three programs, Book Supply, Book Buzz and Community Publishing Projects, focus on ensuring remote Communities have access to quality resources, including books in First Languages, publishing Community stories and empowering Communities and families to lead the entire process to ensure leadership, ownership, and authenticity is held with Community Elders and residents.

At the launch of Arlamunga in Tiwi Islands. Photo: Mamanata consulting

3. Early literacy is important

Transitioning to big school is challenging at the best of times. At ILF, we know it can be easier if children and their families have had access to books and reading materials in their First Languages. 

This year, 90 playgroups have registered for our Book Buzz program, an early literacy program that provides not only board books and books in First Languages, but complementary learning resources like puzzles, puppets and toys. It’s hard to imagine a playgroup without these books and learning resources. 

The value of getting parents, carers and bubs into a space to read to their little ones, to teach them how to hold a book, turn the pages, and guess what happens next, is vital for early literacy development and future reading success. Bilingual and bicultural education helps accelerate reading and promotes full participation from young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners prior to schooling.

Please donate this end of financial year

Community Book Buzz Group in Broome. Photo: Wayne Quilliam.

4. It is the second year of UNESCO's Decade of Indigenous Languages

The Los Pintos Declaration, the roadmap for UNESCO’s Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, emphasises Indigenous peoples’ rights to freedom of expression, to an education in their mother tongue, and to participate in public life using their languages, as prerequisites for survival of Indigenous languages.

The ILF works to meet the wishes of remote Communities across Australia, to assist with the publishing of books created by Community, many in First Languages as well as to fund the development of digital, audio, or other learning resources and workshops.

At the Community Launch of Wanhaka Yothu Yinjani in Yirrkala. 

5. Books in First Languages assist in maintaining a language for generations to come

The ILF works to publish books in First Languages by and for FIrst Nations Communities. Some of these languages are at risk of being lost. Being able to teach children First Language is vital to the survival of language. If it is not widely spoken, having it written in a story and published in a book helps ensure the language is revitalised, promoted and preserved.

In May this year, the Community in Napranum Community in Cape York, Northern Queensland, celebrated the launch of new ILF title We Look, We Find. This bilingual book represents the first time a children’s picture book featuring Thaynakwith language has ever been commercially published. 

Students from Napranum enjoying new title We Look, We Find.

The Community was so excited to honour a prominent Elder, Thanakupi, and teach their language to the next generations as something that is part of who they are. 

“With the kids, learning language is their cultural right. It is their heritage to be exposed to their language and to know their language. If it is not spoken regularly, it then becomes lost. So to keep that language alive, and practised in children's books is one of the best ways to get it out there,” explains Trish, a Director of the Napranum PaL Group. 

We Look, We Find on Country in Napranum. 

At the ILF, we receive no Government funding and although this allows us to work dynamically, it does mean we rely solely on the generosity of supporters and sponsors. There are a number of ways you can show your support. Please visit give.ilf.org.au to support our End of Financial Year Appeal.

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Written by Ella Schofield and Lisa Flower. 

  • Posted 21 June, 2023

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