Aboriginal playgroup parents work together to create bilingual story time


October 02, 2019 07:23:48

A mother’s group in Ngukurr, in south-east Arnhem Land, is taking on the challenge of translating much-loved children’s books into language.

Key points:

  • The Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Ngukurr Language Centre are supporting playgroup parents in translating children’s books into Kriol
  • Playgroup parents have been actively involved in selecting which books to translate into language
  • Teachers say having the parents involved in reading circles has benefited not only the parents but the kids too

With the support of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) and Ngukurr Language Centre, the parents from the Guluman Centre playgroup have translated three favourite bedtime stories into Kriol.

The Very Cranky Bear, Who’s Hiding? and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes are now more accessible to local children.

Printed as stickers, the Kriol version of the story is plastered below the English so the children can learn both languages from an early age.

Vinette Ngalmi, the Indigenous co-ordinator for early childhood at the language centre, said the playgroup parents had been personally selecting books to translate.

“The parents chose The Very Cranky Bear and worked very hard not only to translate the story, but also to perform it to the classroom,” she said.

Ms Ngalmi said since having parents more involved in the classroom, the kids had become more excited to attend ‘the baby school’.

“I drive the baby bus around in the morning, and the little ones run to the bus,” she said.

“I even have a problem with some kids who don’t want to get off the bus when I drop them home.”

Storytime in dual language

More than 5,000 children’s picture books have been translated into Aboriginal languages and given to families throughout the Northern Territory.

The initiative is a part of the Families as First Teachers (FaFT) program to support bilingual literacy in early learning centres.

Northern Territory Minister for Education and Member for Arnhem, Selena Uibo, attended the presentation in Ngukurr and said she was proud of the community’s dedication to their children’s education.

“The Ngukurr community have a long history of advocating for youth education and supporting the work they are doing in integrating parents through FaFT is really lovely,” she said.

Ms Uibo explained the FaFT program had been a success in regional and remote centres and was now at a stage of further implementation in urban areas.

“Since coming into government in 2016, we have nearly doubled our amount of FaFT sites from the very central desert right to the Tiwi Islands,” she said.

“By December 2020, we should have 53 FaFT-supported sites.

“This project has a strong focus on learning in first language, particularly for our Aboriginal children.”

Closing the gap with books and reading

ILF program director Tina Raye said she was amazed to see how engaged the children were with books and reading at the Guluman Centre.

“It was really special seeing the kids instantly sit down with their families to engage in the books we presented [to them],” Ms Raye said.

“This means our kids are getting an equal start.

“We regularly talk about ‘closing the gap’ but when our kids are developing pre-literacy skills in dual language, they are ready to take on more challenging books in a mainstream education.”

Parents as teachers form stronger relationships

Ms Ngalmi said since having the parents involved in reading circles and classroom activities, she had seen a change not only in the children, but in their parents too.

“Before the early childhood centre existed, there were real issues in school attendance; kids didn’t want to go to school,” she said.

“Things have changed in our community now. One little boy’s mother now works in the centre here and her children love coming to school.

“Parents and kids, they feel supported by our community. These kids are important and touch your heart.”

Matthew Rogers said he and his daughter Sheena now had a stronger relationship since he started attending her playgroup.

“It’s really important for parents to be involved while the little ones are growing up,” he said.

“As a father, I see my daughter run to the bus and see her confidence with reading grow; it’s very special.”












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