Encouraging Bilingual Conversational Reading in Central Australia

Encouraging Bilingual Conversational Reading in Central Australia

Every week, Learning with Families in Mparntwe/Alice Springs runs playgroups for babies and toddlers at three different sites in the Central Australian town. And books supplied by ILF’s Book Buzz program have become integral to the development of pre-reading skills among youngsters learning at these sites.

“They are an important part of our Conversational Reading program,” says Beverley Angeles, the Program Advisory Officer. “The little ones absolutely love the bright, colourful books and really enjoy the Conversational Reading time.”

Two afternoons each week the playgroups are held in the Trucking Yards town camp, while the mornings are divided between a playgroup based at the Percy Court housing and one held at Sadadeen Primary School on the east side of town.

The early childhood educators have noted substantial changes in these young children’s engagement with books.

“The little ones want to be involved in the storytelling process. They will help to turn the page, and participate in guessing and predicting. They also like to choose the book to be read.”

Parents and carers have also become more involved.

“The families have responded positively and are participating in the Story Time sessions.”

Several languages — including Western Arrernte, Central Arrernte, Warlpiri, Pitjantjatjara, Luritja/Pintupi and Alyawarre — are spoken by the families in these playgroups.

“We’re trying to embed more cultural perspectives into the playgroups,” Beverley explains. “We take a bilingual approach, and get the families to use their first language as the language of instruction.”

Learning with Families has also been using the Book Buzz resources to make welcome packs for any littlies newly enrolling in the playgroups.

“We also are making up Transition to Pre-school packs with a lunch box and water bottle as well as an ILF t-shirt and books for the children who will be leaving us.”

When COVID-19 closed down the playgroups in 2020, the staff made up Home Learning packs. 

“These proved to be very effective, and feedback from the families was that they used them to keep the learning happening during that time … We would not have been able to provide this service without the ILF’s support.”

Beverley and her team are really passionate about childhood literacy. 

“Anytime a child picks up a book it is going to help with their literacy development, no matter what age. The sooner we can expose them to books, the greater the likelihood of achieving milestones as well as promoting good learning habits.”


LEARNING WITH FAMILIES Top 10 from Book Buzz  

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)

The Very Cranky Bear (Nick Bland)

That’s Not My Puppy (Fiona Watt)

That’s Not My Pony (Fiona Watt)

Where is the Green Sheep? (Mem Fox)

Crinkly Book of Aussie Animals: From the Bush (Jill Brailsford, illustrator)

Baby Sees Farm (Rettore)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Bill Martin Jr.)

Rosie’s Walk (Pat Hutchins)

That’s Not My Truck (Fiona Watt)

  • Posted 28 July, 2021

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