In the Top End of the NT, books from our Book Supply Program have become integral to the delivery of the Top End Health Services Hearing Health Program.
The audio testing team flies out regularly from its base in Darwin to several small, isolated communities — Wadeye, Nauiyu, Peppimenarti and Palumpa among them. It can be a challenge to take the books, as weight limits on small planes are notoriously strict, and more often than not team members have to divvy up the books between their luggage. But the books have well proven their worth.
Generally the Hearing Health Program team spends a full working week in each community. While assessing the children who have been referred to them for hearing loss, the audiologist or specialist nurse talk to the children about the books, using them to gauge speech development and any problems the kids may be having with early language or learning.
“We’re very happy to receive the books,” says Sabine Sprenger, a Clinical Nurse Specialist with the program. “They are such an incentive for the children to use language.”
The team focuses on 0 to 5 year olds, audio testing to determine the extent of any hearing impairment. Often the books come in handy too while the children and their parents are waiting to be seen. And they have proved a very useful distraction in helping keep siblings quiet while examinations are being conducted!
Sabine says that any book with dinosaurs is a real winner with the kids, who also love Where’s My Puppy (by Sarah Creese) and That’s Not My Truck (by Fiona Watt).
And books with Indigenous content really awaken interest of the children and their parents alike.
“Our clients love to see their world in books.”
The team always leaves some books with the Indigenous health workers who live in the communities so the children have access to them in between trips.
“When we tell them they can keep the books they can barely believe it!”
Some are also used in the Families as First Teachers (FAFT) centres which operate like playgroups, with the mums and other carers encouraged to be involved in looking at the books and talking about them with their children.
“It’s very special for the children to have these books. Books are so very rare in these communities.”