"Stars are a feature of the landscape at Warburton in the Gibson Desert – not only in the wondrous night sky, but also in the way they have aligned in the ILF Book Buzz program at the Warburton playgroup.
Under the committed guidance of teacher Anne Shinkfield, Warburton’s youngest children and their mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers are clearly enjoying choosing, sharing, looking at and reading a range of wonderful picture books that build on children’s growing confidence with speaking home language and adults’ confidence with reading that language in translations of classic children’s books such as Dear Zoo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Who Sank the Boat. The immediate benefits are there for all to see in smiling faces and focused looking and listening to words and pictures, and the potential of the ILF program for laying vital foundations the future education of the children is not lost on parents, grandparents, community elders and outside observers. The program in this playgroup is a model for what ILF Book Buzz can be at its very best."
Dr Debbie Gahan
Four of us flew into Alice Springs on Sunday 19 March to embark on a field visit to Warburton. The trip was significant because it was the first field visit with our evaluators, Deborah Gahan and Beverely Broughton and we had been on tenterhooks not knowing whether the roads would be passable after the recent wet weather.
We clocked close to 2000 kilometres during the six-day visit and encountered wild camels, horses, dingoes, donkeys, kangaroos and thorny devils along the unsealed Outback Highway from Alice Springs and back. At Warburton Roadhouse we sleep in Dongers, encountered peacocks, camp dogs and cats and, in the community kitchen, met up with camel hunters, health workers, psychologists and even a Taiwanese bike rider who was traveling from Cairns to Perth.
There had been a baby boom in the community since our last visit and Anne Shinkfield, the Early Years’ Program Regional Coordinator of the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, said that there were close to 50 babies and youngsters in the community itself. Anne reported that many more kids were coming to the playgroup and she was extremely grateful to have the support of a new assistant, Lana.
A significant new development to the playgroup itself was that Anne was giving some of the young mothers basic training in running the playgroup and we were privileged to sit in on the training session on the Tuesday afternoon. In addition, she told us that she’d taken a group to Perth recently and they had visited local TAFE and other playgroups. One of the mothers commented that the Warburton playgroup was much better than some of those they had seen in Perth.
Book Buzz launch
Anne and Lana had invited local families to attend the launch of Book Buzz 2 on the Tuesday morning and we arrived early to help set up books, organise payment for the women who had helped to do the book translations as well as help prepare the morning tea.
Over 22 children - from babies to toddlers - arrived with their mums, aunties and nannas. Beryl, an elder who did the translations for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and who co-wrote the book Playgroup with Anne Shinkfield, arrived to greet us. (Unfortunately Beryl only managed a brief chat with us as she was traveling with her grandson who’d had an accident and needed to see a doctor in Kalgoorlie).
The highlight of the morning was at 9.30am when Anne set out boxes loaded with Buzz books on the alphabet mats. There was much joy, concentration and interest from the kids who ran to the boxes, collected books and sat and engaged and read with elders and mums. After the reading time, Anne read a story aloud in Ngaanytjarra. It was fantastic to see the children so absorbed in the story. We then helped give out morning tea of scrambled eggs, plates of fruit, biscuits and other treats.
After tea, we had great pleasure in handing out the new Buzz kits along with t-shirts, small gifts to the women (change purses) and cards with payments to those who had assisted with the translations.
After a debriefing, we left for a quick lunch and returned to sit in on the training session with two of the mums, working on The Very Hungry Caterpillar story and playdough storyboards. Several women from the community dropped in during that session to pick up their payments.
Wednesday and Thursday Playgroup - 22 & 23 March
There were fewer children at playgroup on the Wednesday and Thursday but the centre was full and different mums and kids came along to participate and probably check us out as well. The mornings both went quickly with a similar routine – with a reading time where the kids choose books from the boxes Anne put out and all read and engaged with them. It was very obvious that the translations of the stories made a huge difference.
Beverley and Debbie had made a felt board of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the following day, a book of the story of Where’s is My Truck? – both of which were much enjoyed. On the Thursday, Beverley and Debbie sat with some of the mothers and talked about Buzz and gathered information for their evaluation.
On Thursday afternoon, Debbie, Beverley and I visited Damian McLean, the president of Ngaanyatjarraku Shire. We’d previously met Damian on the last visit and he expressed his thanks for our continued support of the Playgroup with Buzz and other resources.
On this field trip the Foundation delivered:
- 25 sets of Book Buzz in bags with t-shirts, including translations in Ngaanyatjarra for four of the titles including One, Two Cockatoo; Hattie and the Fox; Where’s Spot and Who Sank the Boat.
- Presented an additional set of books for the preschool to Anne Shinkfield.
- Delivered payment to translators - 15 women.
- Visited Warburton Remote School, where Deb gave a talk and read stories from Naked Boy & the Crocodile
- Delivered a set of Naked Boy & the Crocodile for Warburton Remote School, to Craig Alexander, the young teacher who was teaching the class Andy Griffiths gave at the end of 2010.
- Met up with members of the community including: Damian McLean, the Shire President who is very support of Anne Shinkfield’s work & appreciative of ILF support; and Steve Soames, Principal of WRS.
- Had several briefing sessions with the evaluators; gave evaluators set of Book Buzz 2 and images taken on the trip.
In addition, we’ve had images printed and sent back to the community for the women and also to get permissions.
"Thank you to you and Deb for the wonderful field trip which has been invaluable for gaining insight into how the Book Buzz program works in the particular context in Warburton. We are very grateful to Deb for her insights and guidance throughout the whole field trip and will certainly rely on her for guidance in visiting or interacting with the programs in other places, as this is the key to gaining authentic information.
We are appreciative that Standard English is not the first language of many community members. It was, in fact, wonderful to see the vibrancy of community language as the first language among community members. This is how languages are maintained as living languages.
Seeing the program in action enables us to identify the specific factors that contribute to effectiveness in a specific location (e.g. committed persons in the context) as well as broader factors (e.g. range of books and presentation of these in individual backpacks for the children) that may work across a number of contexts. We fully appreciate that at in each different context, the program (whether Book Buzz, Book Supply or community identified projects) will work differently as it integrates with different contexts. We feel that the Warburton visit was a great way to start.
Thank you for all your work in facilitating all the organisational aspects of the visit. It has been a privilege to travel with such helpful, enlightening, friendly and supportive travel companions."