Early in June two of our team, Tina Raye (Program Manager) and Nicole Whiles (Early Literacy Supervisor), made the long trek across the continent to Warburton in WA, near the NT border, for the launch of two very special board books.
Written in Ngaanyatjarra, the books were developed in March last year when popular children’s author and our Liftime Ambassador Alison Lester spent a week in Warburton working with a group of playgroup mothers. Few people in this part of Australia speak English. For most, Ngaanyatjarra is their first language.
Yaaltjirri Ngarala is a counting book for babies and toddlers, based on the numbers 1 to 9. Tjukurrpa Yanamultjarra features a range of verbs and prepositions indicating the actions of birds and animals familiar to the kids:
Kilykilykarri pirni pukurlpa wartangka katu parrapitjayirni. (The budgerigars are happily flying around the tree.)
Ngupanulu mirrkaku ngurrira. (The dingo is looking for food.)
Ngirntaka yapungka katu ngarala. (The goanna is standing on top of the rock.)
Our Foundation has a longstanding association with Warburton Playgroup, thanks largely to the dedicated efforts of the hardworking coordinator Anne Shinkfield and former coordinator Beryl Jennings. And the contributions of linguist Jan Mountney, who checked the completed text before the board books went to print, have been invaluable.
“If we [ILF] didn’t have such relationships then our publishing of books in language just wouldn’t have happened,” says Nicole.
Three other playgroups are on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands: Blackstone, Jameson and Warakurna. Tina and Nicole visited each of these as well, taking books from our catalogue with them. As part of the Book Buzz celebrations in these playgroups, each child received two books to take home and keep, as well as an ILF t-shirt and an ILF book bag. And as daily custom in the Warburton playgroup, a dedicated story time session is central to the fun. Morning tea for all capped off the activities!
The resourceful early childhood teachers in these communities, Anne and her colleagues Kiara Jones and Leonie Jess, supplement the related toys and literacy materials supplied by ILF with resources they create themselves. For example, the finger puppets have proven helpful with the youngsters’ engagement with the books. One little boy was scared by the image of a crocodile on the page, but quickly overcame his fears when able to play with the far-less-frightening finger puppet croc!
Because there are very few books in these children’s homes there is uncertainty at first as to what books are for let alone how to use them.
“So it’s great to see the kids really enjoying the books being read to them.”
The stability and consistency of the regular story time program provided by the playgroup teachers, supported by an ongoing supply of Book Buzz packages from our Foundation, is paying dividends for increased literacy in these communities.
“It’s building confidence and familiarity with books for both the kids and their parents,” explains Nicole.
Some of the younger mothers are not as confident reading to their children in language as the grandmothers are, but their confidence grows immensely after watching the interactive ebook of Where’s Spot? which is narrated in Ngaanyatjarra.
And having access to books that community members have written and illustrated themselves is making a substantial difference in developing pre-reading skills.
“These books are theirs! It’s a big thing that they’ve created them,” says Nicole.