Aboriginal educators become proud published authors as part of initiative to improve literacy

30 June 2022

Aboriginal peoples have long been wonderful storytellers – and now a collection of Catholic educators can add ‘published author’ to their repertoire of achievements.

Catholic Education WA’s Aboriginal Families as First Educators (AFaFE) program has teamed up with Library for All to create a collection of books for early readers about life on country as part of the Our Yarning series.

Library for All is a free, accessible digital library with stories that allow children to read in languages they understand and feature relatable characters and events.

AFaFE project leader Lynne Beckingham said the genesis of the online library was to create relevant books for every young reader in Australia, no matter where they lived.

“The whole premise is there’s local books for local families all around the world, so this particular collection – the yarning collection – is written by people who are Aboriginal,” Miss Beckingham said.

The collaboration started last year when AFaFE playgroup educators took part in professional development and a Library for All workshop where they learnt to structure a story and create storyboards and illustrations. Now, around 20 books have been published.

“It’s about working with everyday people to create books about everyday life from all around the world. So, if you’re a young child in Balgo you can access a book about Balgo or life in Balgo,” she said.

“They get to tell stories of real life. We have books about being at the beach, the ranger work that happens on country and going out bush, so if you’re a young child in remote or regional WA you can actually read a book about something recognisable in your community.”

“As the saying goes: You can’t be it if you can’t see it.”

Among the published works are: Junior Ranger Work by Jedda Lynch from the John Pujajangka-Piyirn School at Lake Gregory, My Balgo Home by Gabriella Milner from Luurnpa Catholic School – Balgo Hills; and Catch of the Day by Amber Hudson at Sacred Heart School – Beagle Bay.

Since 2015, select CEWA schools have hosted Aboriginal playgroups from Albany to Kununurra for children up to the age of four where parents and carers support and encourage their learning.

“They get to tell stories of real life. We have books about being at the beach, the ranger work that happens on country and going out bush, so if you’re a young child in remote or regional WA you can actually read a book about something recognisable in your community.”

Lynne Beckingham, Aboriginal Families as First Educators (AFaFE) project leader.

These include remote communities at Balgo Hills linking the Great Sandy and Tanami deserts, Beagle Bay on the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley, Billiluna and Warmun near Halls Creek; and Lombardina at Cape Leveque, as well as around Perth in Mandurah, Piara Waters and Redcliffe.

Our Yarning  is a free, digital library of culturally relevant education resources created by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

By partnering with communities, Library for All has published more than 500 books which are delivered using offline and off-grid technology to improve literacy and develop a love of reading.

“AFaFE is a program where, not only are we helping to give children skills for later in life, but we’re really looking to create positive relationships for families with Catholic schools,” Miss Beckingham said.

“The program has been really worthwhile in providing employment for some of the parents, who now work within the programs, which is one of the reasons why we’re so excited that a lot of them are published authors now.”

The Library for All app can be downloaded for free from Google Play so families can access books at no cost.

CEWA is a partner in the WA Premier’s Reading Challenge. To join the challenge, sign up here: https://www.premiersreadingchallenge.wa.edu.au/

 

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