Why is language so important?
Language is important to all of us. Through language, we communicate our needs and wants. We share jokes, express our love, and mourn our loss. Through language we share stories. Stories that teach of our past, our present and imagine our future. Language connects us to our extended family and our community. All the elements of our culture.
Languages carry cultural knowledge, and a loss of language means a loss of connection. Connection to past, connection to culture. This is exacerbated when the language is not coded in written form. When it is taught verbally to the young by their elders. This is what has happened to the languages of many of Australia’s First Nation’s Peoples.
Sadly, in Australia, there has been a loss of many Aboriginal Languages. From the time of colonisation government policies banned and discouraged Aboriginal People from speaking their language. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that government policy changed and now there is a growing push to preserve and revive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. With the understanding of how important it is to teach children the language of their family and their community to connect them to land, Communities, and culture strengthening identity and pride.
A celebration of love and community
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) is one organistation that works towards preserving language and teaching language to children all over Australia. ILF was founded in 2004 as the Riverbend Readers’ Challenge. In 2011 it became the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Since 2011, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation has worked with over 400 remote communities, gifted 636,000 books, supplied 83 playgroups with early literacy Book Buzz resources, and published 143 books reflecting 26 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Literature that is culturally relevant, age-appropriate, and supports children’s literacy skills as they learn to decode images and text. A celebration of language and Community.
Indigenous Literacy Day is a major advocacy and fundraising event for the Foundation. The funds raised help provide books, books in first languages, and learning resources to children and families in remote Communities across Australia. Communities that may not have infrastructures such as libraries or bookstores. Indigenous Literacy Day combines a live digital event, the Great Book Swap and this year showcases three beautiful books. Shordi Krik, Country tells us when (Yawuru Edition) and We Look, We Find.
How we can promote language and literacy skills in ECE
As educators there is so much, we can do to promote language and literacy skills. The ILF has resources to support educators' understanding of the Communities and Languages used in the books, sharing how the stories were developed and illustrated.
The three books showcased this year are only a small sample of the books for young children, teens, and adults available through the ILF bookshop. Browse the collection and consider adding some to your teaching resources.
There are other ways you can introduce First Nation languages. A modern twist to Indigenous storytelling can be found at Sharing Stories Foundation. Their bilingual digital stories are designed with multiple touch points, perfect for sharing a story with a small group of children on a tablet or with a larger group on an interactive board. Like the ILF books there are resources to support educators in understanding the Communities that the stories are from to be able to plan for meaningful and authentic engagement with children.