The Tablelands Counselling and Support Service, based in Mareebra, in far north Queensland, received its first Book Supply packs from ILF just last year. Barb Hall, a Family Counsellor with the TCASS, had heard about ILF and could see how beneficial the books could be in the communities she works with.
‘One child knew no entertainment other than playing with a mobile phone.’
The TCASS, which has been running for 5 years, provides support and counselling for families with complex needs. A number of these families are very disadvantaged, often vulnerable, with some children having experienced a lot trauma.
‘Many parents I work with have extremely low literacy skills,’ says Barb. ‘A number have not experienced the joy of being read to as a child or exploring a beautifully illustrated book.’
TCASS is an outreach service, with its workers making home visits to families in socially isolated communities as far afield as Chillago, Dimbulah, Mutchilba, Kuranda, Koah, Kowarra and Julatten, as well as in Mareeba itself. Now, having received the packs, the workers always take a selection of books with them when visiting a family.
‘Through the use of ILF books we have been able to slowly engage mothers and model the joy a book experience can bring to children, while at the same time building in a growing confidence for parents to begin reading to their children,’ says Barb. ‘The wonderful selection provided has allowed workers to match books to the literacy level of the parent and developmental age of the child.’
Some of the books are taken along to the weekly Yumba Community Women’s Group (yumba means home). Along with thermoses of tea and coffee and some cakes, the books are laid out on a big mat, and Barb explains where the books came from and exactly how they got to Mareeba.
‘The mothers really love the story of how the books got there.’
A few weeks back one young mum picked up a picture book and earnestly read it front to back to her 5-month-old baby, who sat entranced on her lap, ‘totally absorbed with her storytelling’.
‘It was very exciting to see,’ Barb says.
Cookery books have also been a huge success in the Tablelands, and are shared with another local organisation in basic cooking, nutrition and budgeting classes. Stew a Cockatoo (written by Ruthie May and illustrated by Leigh Hobbs) has been ‘a real hit’.
‘How to cook kangaroo was – and continues to be – a talking point!’
Some of the books are lent to families, and swapped on the next visit.
‘The Indigenous picture books really go down well,’ say Barb. ‘They’re an absolute hit with the kids and grownups alike.’