MTA’s range of picture books can support children to have a lifelong love of reading
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MTA’s range of picture books can support children to have a lifelong love of reading

by Freya Lucas

August 21, 2020

Readers of The Sector are no strangers to Modern Teaching Aids (MTA), one of the best known suppliers of educational resources in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector in Australia. 


What is less widely known is that MTA is a leading proponent of children’s literacy with a huge range of high quality books and puppets that have been painstakingly curated through a “behind the scenes” process that is designed to ensure they are able to “flick the switch” to a lifelong love of reading, storytelling and wonder for the next generation of lifelong learners. 


We caught up with Mil Hieber, Literacy Product Manager and an experienced Secondary English Head Teacher to learn more about why setting a strong foundation for literacy in the early years is so important, and how she goes about curating their extensive range of literacy products. 


With a range that includes picture books, big books, Indigenous books, audio books, puppet story sets, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, poetry, songs, and jingles, Mil also spoke with us about the important contributions incorporating books into an early learning curriculum can make.


The research


Academics have found that stories and storytelling have a strong influence on children’s understanding of cultural and gender roles. As well as helping children to develop core literacy skills, stories convey values, beliefs, attitudes and social norms which, in turn, shape children’s perceptions of reality.


Children learn how to behave, think, and act through the characters that they meet through stories, making storytelling an especially important part of the ECEC curriculum to “get right”, and that begins by choosing from a collection of resources which has been hand picked to not only compliment the approved learning frameworks, but also to support core themes, topics and issues encountered in the curriculum. 


The curation process


Famous author Neil Gaiman once said “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one” highlighting the value of not only having access to information, but having access to the kind of information which is reliable, appropriate, and helpful for a situation. The same can be said when it comes to books for children. It’s not enough to simply surround the children in an ECEC setting with books and hope for the best. 


To get the most benefit from stories, children need access to books that have been chosen, handled and presented with care. Children are much more likely to engage with a story when an educator calls them in with excitement, and explains why the story has been chosen, asking the children to make guesses about what will happen, to find things in the pictures, and to engage in a meaningful way with the book. 


This is where some of the “special extras” such as audio books, book storage options, big book packs and a range of cross curricular books to support educators to engage in exploration of topics like space, bugs and STEM provided by MTA can help.

Books are not just for reading, they help with big issues too


As well as covering off the more academic aspects of a day in ECEC, MTA’s collections are there to support educators to help children and their families to navigate some challenging topics. 


In the child protection, safety and feelings pack, for example, educators will find 20 books which have been written and illustrated with care, to support children, their educators and families to understand more about safety and protection. Books in this collection aim to empower children, and teach them about personal safety, feelings, safe and unsafe touch, secrets and surprises, consent and respect – all in an age appropriate and sensitive way. 


Stories like Pearl Fairweather, Pirate Captain gently challenge children’s preconceptions about gender, as Pearl and her all female crew sail the seven seas on their good ship, Harmony, while  How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear? helps children to learn more about how to recognise their feelings, and overcome fears and anxious thoughts by providing them with life-long skills in how to deal with anxiety.


Supporting through times of change 


Many services have been using stories and reading as a way of remaining connected while children learn from home during COVID-19, using digital platforms to allow all children to experience story time, regardless of location. 


Times of crisis and challenge highlight the value and importance of having a collection of high quality stories which help children to feel comforted, connected, and kept in a sense of routine and predictability. By sharing new and familiar stories, like the ones found in MTAs carefully selected collections, educators and educational leaders can offer an additional layer of support to families who are experiencing challenging times. 


To view the full range of resources which are available from MTA, please visit their website, here and for a direct link to the children’s book section of the catalogue please see here


For more information, please contact your local MTA representative, or call 1800 251 497.

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