We’ve just returned from a field trip to Gove Peninsula in the NT, where children’s book illustrator Ann James and former teacher-librarian Ann Haddon ran a series of workshops with a group of children from Nhulunbuy Primary School, aged 7-13 years.
English is the second language for these Yolngu Matha-speaking students, and the writing and publishing project was the idea of teachers at the school who were keen to have literacy resources in the classroom that encouraged not only learning but also reading for enjoyment.
Ann James believes in working visually to get the kids excited and confident in creating their story - first comes the artwork, which then forms the narrative. This process is especially important when English is their second language. “The kids feel so much more confident when there is no language barrier”, she says.
The aim of the workshop was for the kids to develop a story about some aspect of life in their coastal community and it started with each student picking their favourite Nhulunbuy 'creature' to draw, mold, sculpt and photograph. There were crocodiles, eagles, stingrays, kangaroos, snakes, turtles and snails amongst the creatures. They played with sketching, soft pastels and paper clay. The kids then took their new creature clay sculptures out on country to photograph them in their favourite places.
The students and teachers had discussions about the stories of the creatures in language, and then they began constructing some small sentences in English - the result is one story of how “we enjoy Nhulunbuy!”
The school approached us back in 2015 and we’re thrilled to be able to support the development of this book, which reflects Yolngu culture and community. We can't wait to see the final product of what we know will be a fantastic book.