Imagine being sick, having to travel long distances to a town you’re unfamiliar with — and then spending several months living away from home in order to receive ongoing medical treatment.
This can be the reality for many families from remote communities. But at a hostel in Far North Queensland, books are making a real difference. And it’s not just the kids who are benefiting, but also their parents and families.
Mookai Rosie Bi-Yan in Cairns provides accommodation for children and adults from Cape York and Torres Strait Islands communities who have come for medical check-ups or treatment. Some stay overnight, or for a short time, but others might need to stay several months. Most families arrive with few belongings, and usually no toys or books.
Each child who comes to Mookai Rosie Bi-Biyan is given a “welcome bag” containing a few books from ILF and some small toys for them to play with.
“They can take these books and toys to their room and then eventually take home back to their community," explains Kasia Ratabua, the Playgroup and Activities Coordinator.
Kasia also keeps a stock of books on display so that the kids and their parents can easily access them any time of the day and night.
Four days each week Kasia also runs a playgroup for the under-fives staying at the hostel. She reads to the children, showing parents and carers how they can share and enjoy picture books with their babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
“The books have encouraged the parents to read to their children…which has created some interesting conversations about literacy and the benefits of reading to your child, even as small newborn babies.”
Kasis says the tactile, sensory books for the youngest children have proven to be a real hit, and both the kids and their parents love the books with Indigenous content. Books for adults, mostly non-fiction, are also delivered to the hostel each year.
“The books have created an interest in reading. Clients see all these brand new books displayed and are interested in what they’re all about. The next thing they’re picking one up and having a read!”