There are a range of texts teachers can use to explore First Nations culture, language and diversity in the classroom.
On Episode 76 of The Teacher’s Toolkit for Literacy, hosted by Sharon Callen, teacher Lucy Stinson and children’s bookseller Genevieve Kruyssen recommended some quality books that teachers can use to connect to the curriculum and make an impact.
Books to explore First Nations topics and people
There is quality literature available by First Nations Australian authors, illustrators and publishers for teachers to use. One example is Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth by Melissa Greenwood.
“Now it’s quite explicitly stated in the primary years for there to be literature by First Nations Australian authors, as well as obviously wide-ranging Australian authors and authors from around the world. But it’s a given that there’ll be books that will need to be shared and used and explored by First Nations authors,” Lucy said.
“So Miimi Marraal, Mother Earth is a really beautiful book. You know immediately it’s a First Nations book because of the indigenous artwork. And Melissa Greenwood, she and her daughter have a homewares company that completely matches the aesthetics of the book. It’s these beautiful kinds of pastel pinks that are used throughout that are beautiful, and it contains all of the dots and the patterns and everything you would expect to see.
“They give the author’s own background and their own language background, so of course that’s really important to the context of the story, that it comes from the heart of the indigenous people. And it’s really a story where it’s sharing the connection to earth, but also the connection to family.”
The duo explained a text like this is ideal to use across all primary levels.
“It’s got that lovely rhythmic sense to it. Obviously it’s one of those books that you would begin with to read aloud to children, just to share those stories, but you can talk to Year 1’s about the connections and how the images are used to tell the story as well. So you can comfortably use it in Reception/ Foundation, but you can also continue it through in the other year levels, to look at it more deeply,” Lucy said.
Books to showcase different languages
There are a variety of bilingual books which delve into different cultures and languages beyond English. One example is a book called Be Careful Xiao Xin! by Alice Pung.
“What’s beautiful in this book is it has, underneath the text on each page, every word written in Asian symbols. So it’s about a little Chinese boy who feels like his family is always telling him to be careful and he wanders away. And in that story, it’s really about learning to conquer your own fears as a child and adult, because he goes, and then everyone’s looking for him, everyone does worry about him,” Lucy said.
“It’s not particularly Asian as in the cultural parts of it, other than being able to recognise the racial group of the family and their language that’s written down, but I think it is just broadening children’s sense of diversity, and it’s great for Asian children to go, ‘I can see me in that story’.
“So those bilingual books I think are a really important text type that have come into the mix. And I think it’s also about embedding the beginning of that understanding and appreciation of people who aren’t very far away from our shores in many respects, but also who we have a lot of connections with in many ways. But rather than leaving it to the older year levels where they really get into that, we can start that cross-curricular priority in the early years with just that awareness.”
Using poetry to explore diversity
Lucy and Genevieve discussed how the poetry book And Everything Will Be Glad to See You by Anna Shepeta and Ella Risbridger explores the notion of diversity.
“It’s poems are by women and girls. And they’ve got a quite a big blurb about wanting to have the voice of women and girls through poetry. So it’s an interesting book just from that perspective. And it’s a good collection of poetry that you would be able to pick and choose what would be useful to explore, from looking at the fact that it’s the voice of women, to looking at the structure of poetry and how it works. It’s also got simple poems and complex poems,” Lucy said.
“It’s illustrated and it’s got a really lovely sort of acrylic paint type illustration. It’s quite bright and a sort of naive style artwork. But it also seems to be quite diverse racially.”
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