Book Buzz is changing lives for young children in Alekarenge
Children and families who participate in the Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup offered in Alekarenge, a remote Australian community approximately three and a half hours north of Alice Springs, are benefiting from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s Book Buzz program.
Many families in the community don’t have any books in their homes, and the community shop does not stock any, so Family Educator Michelle Leonard and the Family Liaison Officer work with families to choose from the Book Buzz selection, with the books delivered to them when they arrive in the mail.
Many of the Book Buzz books are also used each day in the FaFT program for “conversational reading”.
“We encourage families to talk with their children in their own language, emphasising it is the interaction that is important,” Ms Leonard explained. “Even the very young babies engage in story time — and some for a sustained period, which is great for this age group.”
The playgroup runs four mornings a week from the school, attracting between 20 and 30 children and their families. On Fridays, a mobile playgroup is offered, held at various places in the community including outside the shop, at the preschool or elsewhere in the community.
“This really lets us reach out to more families,” Ms Leonard shared, “and it encourages the fathers to get involved.”
Invariably, the parents and carers who regularly attend the FaFT playgroups are women, and caring for the babies and toddlers living in the community tends to be seen as a traditionally female role.
As such the fathers can be “a bit reluctant” to come into the FaFT room. However if the playgroup takes place somewhere else, “they seem to feel more comfortable about getting involved and sharing books with their youngsters”.
In 2020, the pandemic made for some creative thinking at Alekarenge, in order to maintain the FaFT program and continue to support families in the community.
“It brought on a bit of a shake-up. COVID-19 certainly made us think about how we could reach out.”
Many more Book Buzz packs were delivered to homes, along with laminated sheets offering ideas on how to share the books with the children so families could use the same approach at home as at FaFT.
Some of these resources were “created in a rush”, but they are still proving extremely useful in 2021, now that things are getting back to normal.
“Parents are developing confidence in reading to their children, both at FaFT and at home. It’s helping to expand vocabularies, and it definitely helps with school readiness and the transition to big school.”
In several families, some of the older, school-age children are helping with reading to their younger siblings at home.
And a few of these older children have even started coming into the FaFT room to ask for more books to read to the little ones!
“We’re very proud of our program and the work we’re doing with families. The more we can engage with literacy skills, the greater the benefits for kids later on. And the books from Book Buzz are very well suited to our families’ needs. Book Buzz is a brilliant resource,” Ms Leonard said in closing.
To learn more about Book Buzz please see here.