Crocodile Island youngsters switched on to a love of reading through ILF support

Crocodile Island youngsters switched on to a love of reading through ILF support

by Freya Lucas

September 01, 2021

Participating in the Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s (ILF) programs has had some unexpected benefits for children and families living on the island of Milingimbi, off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

 

The Book Buzz and Book Supply programs have supported families who attend the Families as First Teachers (FaFT) playgroup at the local school to engage in literacy activities and promoting a love of reading. 

 

“In the wet season, from January to April, we get 10 to 15 people per day,” Early Childhood Educator Sue Lawson explained. “In the dry season, when families travel more, it’s an average of eight per day.”

 

About 1,500 people live in the remote community, where Yolngu Matha is the first language, and 85 are children aged between birth and five years of age. While the littlies coming to playgroup are usually accompanied by their mother, sometimes it’s their grandmother, aunty or older sister who brings them along for the morning’s activities, which always includes storytime.

 

“Every day, last thing, we all sit in a big circle and read a book together. Everyone has a copy of the same book, and we read it every day for two weeks…At the end of the fortnight the parents are given one of the books to take home,” Ms Lawson said.

 

The children, she continued, love the books and are quickly developing early literacy skills such as ensuring a book is the right way up and learning how to turn the pages.

 

“Children are sitting for longer periods with a book too…their engagement is growing. We also have a nine-month-old child who…is capable of pointing to the correct animals [in the books] when asked.”

 

In the afternoons, after playgroup, Sue and the other educator make home visits around the community, taking a big box of Book Buzz books with them in the back of the car. They sit down with each family, read a story, have a yarn with the parents and leave a book behind in the home. 

 

“Now we’re hearing that some kids won’t go to bed unless they’ve had a story read to them!” Ms Lawson reports. “They will get a book we’ve left and take it to their parents.”

 

Because the island store doesn’t stock books, she also orders from other ILF collections such as Books 4 Kids, Books 4 Big Kids and Books 4 Community packs. 

 

“Some of the local mums have taken to sitting down on the couch in the playgroup room and reading these,” she added.

 

The chapter books in Kriol, written by a group of women from the Binjari community near Katherine in the NT and published by ILF, have proven especially popular. 

 

“We love the ILF books. I’d be lost without them, and I know that most FaFT educators would feel the same.”

 

For more information about the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, please see here

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