Mums in remote Indigenous communities are translating children’s books into local languages as part of an innovative reading program developed and run through the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), according to ILF Board Member Glen Miller.
Glen is a descendant of the Butchella people of the Fraser coast and has worked for more than 20 years to help preserve Aboriginal culture. His mother, Aunty Olga Miller, wrote Legends of Moonie Jarl, the first children’s book authored by an Aboriginal person, which recently marked its 50th anniversary..
Glen was special guest speaker at RQI’s March 2018 general meeting and explained that the Community Literacy Program was one of three programs that the ILF delivers to help children of all ages learn to read in their own languages and in English.
“We have a large number of ambassadors and some of those ambassadors are either actors, singers, writers, entertainers, and we take those people out to selected communities on a field trip,” Glen said.
“And we’ll work with the kids out there and they will sit down and do a story telling session [and] a story writing session. If we’ve got an artist with us the artist will run an arts session.
“And hopefully out of that will come a story that the children have written themselves and have done the illustrations for, and if its really good we will print it as a book,” he said.
Glen had brought with him examples of some of the books the ILF had printed through this program, including some aimed at early childhood, which the ILF distributes through another of its programs called Book Buzz.
“One of the amazing things that has come out of Book Buzz is that the mothers sit down with the books that we supply and they translate the text into their local language,” Glen said.
“They tell us what language is, we get clear stickers printed up and we send them out to these communities. And the mums sit down and put those stickers inside the books, next to the English text.
“So, even from a very early age, the kids are learning how to read in their own language, plus English.”
“We’ve learned that supplying books isn’t enough. You have to actually get involved with the mums and the kids and show the kids how they can get involved with the books, rather than just supplying them,” he said.
Glen said Book Supply was the ILF’s biggest program.
“Every year we do up a book list and send that list out to the schools and communities who participate in that, and they can choose from that book list which books they want for their kids,” he said.
“And then those books are sent out free of charge to all those schools,” which Glen explained wouldn’t be possible without support from the publishing industry.
“The publishing industry either donates the books or sells them to us at cost and then we warehouse them somewhere and pay a company to do up all the book bundles and ship them out.
“We don’t get directly involved in that sort of stuff. That’s a bit too big a job for seven people,” he added.
While the Indigenous Literacy Foundation is a not-for-profit charity with a small pool of permanent staff, it still manages to reach over 250 remote communities.
There are also a number of casual volunteers that support the ILF during busy times and at events.
ILF founder Suzy Wilson
Suzy Wilson is Founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the owner of Riverbend Books in Bulimba, Brisbane.
Before embarking on her career in the Australian Book Industry Suzy was a teacher, an education consultant with Education Queensland and part-time lecturer at Queensland University of Technology.
In 2010, she was awarded the Dromkeen Award for her efforts in ‘being a catalyst in changing children’s lives through literature’.
The ILF depends on community volunteers, fundraising and donations to make its work possible. It receives no government funding. To find out how you can get involved, visit the ILF’s website here: www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au.