From barramundi to the kookaburra — turning songs and nursery rhymes into board books in first languages

From barramundi to the kookaburra — turning songs and nursery rhymes into board books in first languages

In the wake of the excitement generated last year by The Barramundi Song, sung to the tune of Frere Jacques, ILF is publishing a new series of board books for babies and toddlers in remote communities.

ILF ambassador Jessica Mauboy recorded the song in both Tiwi and Mangarrayi for our Indigenous Literacy Day (ILD) celebrations in September 2020. And now the song is to be published in several Indigenous languages of the NT.

Tictac Moore, ILF’s Regional Program Coordinator: Tiwi Islands, says work on the Tiwi board book was well underway when she joined our team three months ago.

“The translations were already done so I helped organise the illustrations.”

At Pularumpi School on the west coast of Melville Island, “the whole school got involved”, primary and preschool kids alike.

“The teachers got all the kids to have a go at drawing animals for the book.”

And this they did, using crayons and paint.

“Some kids really went to town with it!” Tictac says. “They were very enthusiastic. And the illustrations are beautiful.”

Meanwhile, nearly 400 kilometres south, Josie Lardy, our Regional Program Coordinator: Katherine, had begun working with several communities who had told us they’d like to publish versions of The Barramundi Song in their own languages.

Josie was taught the Marra version of the song by Guluman childcare centre Assistant Teachers, who had already translated it when she went out to work with them.

“Once community members were given the opportunity to have their language of the song in a book, they thought it was a good idea.” Josie explains. “They say it’s good to see the lingo written down and to have it recorded. A lot of language is being lost and in some places only a few Elders can speak it.”

COVID restrictions on travelling to remote communities have meant a lot of the publication process has been undertaken from a vast distance. Our lifetime Ambassador Alison Lester would normally visit these communities, but instead, our Sydney-based team worked with Alison to create a digital tutorial on illustrating board books so communities could produce their own paintings and drawings.

Josie sent the digital link to the Families as First Teachers (FaFT) leaders she works with ahead of any illustrating workshops so she could build on Alison’s tutorial when she visited them in person. But the process varied from community to community.

“In some communities the FaFT parents did the illustrations, mostly crayon drawings, cut outs and using sponging. But at Jilkminggan, a big group of school kids did them after watching the digital tutorial.”

Each community translated and illustrated their versions of The Barramundi Song in their own way, and the board books in Tiwi, Alawa, Marra and Mangarrayi are now in the final stages of production.

After layout of the pages in Sydney, the digital files have been sent to the communities to make sure members are happy with the design and so they can make any changes.

The FaFT leaders, assistant teachers and school staff in each remote community have done an amazing job pulling together the translations of the songs, recording the audio files and creating these fantastic books for future generations to read and love.

By October, these beautiful board books will be ready for gifting to the communities that produced them. And each book will have a QR code for scanning so an audio version of the song can be listened to.

“In Pularumpi, everyone is keen to do more books,” says Tictac. “The kids have been singing these songs for years, like The Kookaburra Song and Bingo. And Simpy [who did the Tiwi version of The Barramundi Song] already has other songs translated. The next one we do will be Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

“Ngukurr mob also have translated their favourite nursery rhymes into Kriol already.” Josie adds.

Each of these board books will help the current generation of parents and their little ones living in these remote communities become more confident in learning and reading their first languages.

“But one book at a time!” Josie says.

  • Posted 13 May, 2021

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