Reading takes off in the Torres Strait

Reading takes off in the Torres Strait


Every second Saturday morning throughout 2016, a group of Torres Strait Islander navy cadets volunteered their time to read to youngsters in the local library on Thursday Island.

Some of the children were only toddlers, and other family members would turn up to quietly stand around and listen in. At the end of the session each child got to take home one of the books that had been read to them.

We put labels in the front saying ‘This book was read to ….. by …..’,” explains Viviane Silva, co-founder with Praveena Panprasom of the TI Reading Group.

At the start, the Reading Group relied entirely on books kindly donated by TI residents, until it began receiving books through the ILF Book Supply Program. The Deadly Reads for Deadly Readers series (Magabala Books) proved very popular as, not surprisingly, were books about life in Torres Strait, such as Wandihnu and the Old Dugong (by Elizabeth Wymarra and Wandihnu Wymarra, illustrated by Ben Hodges) and The Pearl-shell Diver: a story of adventure from the Torres Strait (by Kay Crabbe).

Up to 80 children turned up to each session. At first the teenage cadets struggled a little with reading to a group but gradually gained in confidence and overcame their initial shyness. And they made great role models for their younger listeners.

The message the kids got was that if I can read a book to you in public then you can try to do it at home.

The children’s parents are now much more “proactive” at the Reading Group sessions, Viviane says, often choosing a book themselves and sitting down to read it with their child.

A calendar for sessions of the TI Reading Group for 2017 has been drawn up with the ongoing support of librarian Aunty Mavis. And plans are afoot for the reading groups to extend to the outer islands.

Building on the success of activities held on TI for Indigenous Literacy Day in 2016, Viviane is hoping for a huge “community celebration” of literacy on ILD this year (Wednesday 6 September). Already local government, the library and some businesses are keen to be involved.

  • Posted 01 August, 2017

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