In isolated Gununa on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, it’s impossible to buy a book at the community store because none are stocked. But books from the ILF Book Supply are now beginning to make a real difference in the school readiness of five-year-olds on the island.
The Kirdi Mayarr Early Learning Centre caters for youngsters aged six weeks to five years. Every Thursday, it hosts a Big Day Out and invites parents and families along to join in the activities. Once a month there’s a special storytime session featuring props made by the dedicated staff to accompany the reading of a selected picture book. Afterwards, every child receives a copy of the book to keep.
“The parents love that their children have access to books and can take them home,” says Leonie Stevens, the Director at the centre.
Sometimes parents are invited to lead the storytelling session. Many did not have ready access to books themselves as children, but storytime allows them to build both the skills and confidence to read to the little ones.
Over the past two years, teachers at the nearby school have noted that with more books available, kids from the centre are now more school ready when they start prep.
“It’s really good to see the progression,” says Leonie.
Given that Lardil and Kaidilt are spoken by many children in Gununa, staff at Kirdi Mayarr have recently set out to produce the centre’s own books for babies in these first languages. The project is still in its early stages, with parents and community members contributing ideas.
“The books will feature things the babies are very familiar with,” Leonie explains. “Like turtles, dugongs and crabs.”
Meanwhile, there are sets of books from the ILF Book Supply in each room at the centre. And throughout the year, on occasions such as Easter and Christmas, books are gifted to the children.
“We have fun doing it and the kids are always surprised.”