Thousands of young children started their first year of schooling over the last few weeks. These new students are being introduced to formal education and the very early concepts of literacy and numeracy, so important for future success at school. Beginning “big school" is an exciting time for many children. But imagine if school was the first time you read a book, held a pencil or listened to Standard Australian English.
This is the reality of countless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in very remote locations. These children come to school with an important set of knowledge and skills that relate to their home language and culture. However, schooling and the Western Education system are still very unfamiliar. Often, schools can be their first exposure to books, print, writing, reading, listening and speaking in Standard Australian English.
The Paakantji parents of Wilcannia community certainly voiced their concerns and felt their children were not ready for this Western school system when they began their first year of schooling. Responding to this, our Foundation along with the former Principal of St Therese's School in Wilcannia are working on a project called Readiness for School.
This project will create a book to empower parents to be the first teachers in their child’s life in getting them ready for their first year of schooling. This book will help to break down the many barriers that numerous chdilren face in very remote locations and assist with the transition from home life to school life.
Patrick Ellis, with three years experience of living and teaching in the community, is writing the book in consultation with the community and with the support of the Paakantji Language Circle.
“It is important when discussing child development that we approach it holistically, where we look at the whole child including their culture. This book focuses on areas which children will encounter through their development,” said Patrick.
Editors from Penguin Australia are assisting with the project which will be launched later in the year.
Photo: Patrick Ellis reads to students from books delivered during an ILF Field trip in 2012 (c) Prudence Upton