On the island of Milingimbi, off the coast of Arnhem Land in the NT, there have been some unanticipated spin-offs as a result of the delivery of ILF’s Book Buzz and Book Supply programs.
Each weekday in a room at the local school, a Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup is held for babies and toddlers. Attendance varies, according to the time of year.
“In the wet season, from January to April, we get 10 to 15 people per day,” explains early childhood educator Sue Lawson. “In the dry season, when families travel more, it’s an average of eight per day.”
About 1500 people live in this remote community, where Yolngu Matha is the first language, and 85 are kids aged 0 to 5. While the littlies coming to playgroup are usually accompanied by their mother, sometimes it’s their grandmother, aunty or older sister who brings them along for the morning’s activities, which always include storytime.
“Every day, last thing, we all sit in a big circle and read a book together. Everyone has a copy of the same book, and we read it every day for two weeks … At the end of the fortnight the parents are given one of the books to take home.”
Sue says the kids love the books and are quickly developing early literacy skills such as ensuring a book is the right way up and learning how to turn the pages.
“Children are sitting for longer periods with a book too … their engagement is growing. We also have a 9-month-old child who … is capable of pointing to the correct animals [in the books] when asked.”
In the afternoons, after playgroup, Sue and the other educator make home visits around the community, taking a big box of Book Buzz books with them in the back of the car. They sit down with each family, read a story, have a yarn with the parents and leave a book behind in the home.
“Now we’re hearing that some kids won’t go to bed unless they’ve had a story read to them!” Sue reports. “They will get a book we’ve left and take it to their parents.”
But these youngsters aren’t the only ones enjoying books from ILF. Because the island store doesn’t stock books, Sue also orders from our Books 4 Kids, Books 4 Big Kids and Books 4 Community packs.
“Some of the local mums have taken to sitting down on the couch in the playgroup room and reading these.”
The chapter books in Kriol, written by a group of women from Binjari community near Katherine in the NT and published by ILF, have proven especially popular.
“We love the ILF books. I’d be lost without them, and I know that most FaFT educators would feel the same.”