NLA Publishing, 2016
68pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Look at your school population. Are all the children native English speakers? Or is there a mix of languages almost as diverse as the children themselves? In my Collection Policy for the school I was recently working in under the heading Purpose and Role of the Collection I included the clause “provide a wide range of materials on all levels of difficulty, with a diversity of appeal and the presentation of different points of view including those that reflect the lives of students in relation to their culture, ethnicity, language, religion and beliefs, community and family structure, sexual orientation and any other consideration” and this new publication from the National Library of Australia fits the language aspect of this perfectly.
Superbly illustrated in cartoon style by Tony Flowers and presented in a clear uncomplicated layout, we meet twelve Australian children, each of whom speaks a different language including Kala Lagaw Ya from Badu Island in the Torres Strait; Kaurna from Tarntanya in Adelaide; and Murrinhpatha from Wadeye in the Northern Territory as well as the more common languages of Italian, Thai, Korean, Greek , Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Chinese. Even the Lebanese version of Arabic is included and there is a pronunciation guide at the back of the book to assist the reader but which have been dovetailed to meet needs rather than being a linguistic reference.
Each child has two double spreads so as well as introducing the reader to the word for ‘hello’ in each language, each then shares a little of their life including favourite foods, special days, costumes, musical instruments, games and activities and how to count to ten and each of these is then highlighted at the back of the book with photos available in the NLA.
As much as the children I was working with last year loved to practise and share their new skills in English, their faces always lit up when they discovered a resource written in their own language or which was about their own country. They were so happy to see something familiar amongst the unfamiliar and loved to show it to their friends and then take it home to share with their families. So this wonderful resource is sure to strike a chord with so many of those in our care. Apart from the familiarity it also demonstrates that we acknowledge and value their origins by having resources for them available. Seeing yourself in a book is such an affirmation of who you are.
There are so many opportunities within the Australian Curriculum and within the calendar to investigate and celebrate the origins of the children in our classes that this book could be in use all year. There are comprehensive teaching notes which include how to make some of the items featured by the children but I can envisage it being a pivotal text for this year’s Book Week theme – Australia: Story Country. Make it model for the children to tell their story by producing a poster and display for the library to be hung in honour of their country’s national day. This was one of the most popular displays that attracted so much interest from parents and teachers as much as from the students. They really valued the recognition.
Make Harmony Day every day!