Ensuring an early start to books and reading

Indigenous Literacy Foundation

At St Paul's Primary Health Care Centre on Moa Island, babies and toddlers are being introduced to books from a very early age.

Board, cloth and picture books from our Book Supply program are gifted to these young children each time they visit the health centre, and especially when they are brought in for their immunisation jabs.

“The mothers really love it that their babies are getting books as early as six months,” says Christine Perrett, Clinical Nurse Consultant. “The books are a real hit, the parents love them.”

St Paul's is one of two communities on Moa Island in the Torres Strait. Located on the northern side of the island, it’s accessible by both boat and plane. Currently, just 295 people live there.

Books are very few in households in this remote part of Australia. There are no shops where you can buy a book, and no library either.

“Apart from at the school, the ILF books we order every year to provide to families are the only books availaible in this community,” Christine explains.

When babies are brought in for their first vaccination at two months, they receive their first book. From each ILF delivery, Christine puts aside age-appropriate books for these tiny Islanders — mostly the picture books that come with soft toys and the fabric books that infants can safely chew on. 

The remaining books are displayed in the clinical room, and the toddlers and preschoolers coming to the clinic are encouraged to choose one to take home when they leave.

“It’s a real treat for them to have a book, especially for the under-fives. Some children talk about going to the health centre to ‘get their book’ rather than to ‘get their needle’. If they’re having two needles they get two books!” 

Some of the mums tell Christine that their kids love the books so much they want them read to them every day.

Parents also read the books to the children while waiting to see the nurse or health worker. And they have seen some kids put down a mobile phone and pick up a book instead!

 “The books are very well received, and they are being put to very good use…It’s an awesome program we would love to continue to participate in.”

  • Posted 22 April, 2020