Published on 19 July 2023
Spreading the joy of reading
An innovative new project is sharing backpacks, the Kaurna language, and the joy of reading to families across Onkaparinga.
“Ngai Mingkinthi [I feel happy],” reads the first page of a new children’s book launched at Christies Beach’s Taikurrendi Children and Family Centre in May.
Looking around the laughter filled room at the smiling faces of the families reading, it was clear the book was already doing its job.
Ngaityu Muiyu [My Feelings in Kaurna] contains images and words describing everyday feelings and emotions in English and Kaurna, and the book is being distributed in backpacks to about 600 families across the cities of Port Adelaide Enfield (PAE) and Onkaparinga through an innovative new project.
The Ngaityu Muiyu Tantu (My Feelings Bag) backpacks were developed by the two councils and Kalaya Children’s Centre (in PAE), and are aimed at children aged 0-5, especially from First Nations families.
Each backpack contains two picture books, one written and illustrated by First Nations creators and one featuring Kaurna language; finger puppets and clapping sticks to be used as storytelling tools; suggestions on how to use the backpacks; and information from Parenting SA.
Taikurrendi Director Catherine Cavouras said the project had created “a beautifully crafted resource” for the centre’s families, providing the “gift of Kaurna language and children’s voice”.
“At Taikurrendi, our education team works really hard to support children communicating their emotions, and we develop strategies alongside them for co-regulation and being ready to learn,” she said.
“The Ngaityu Muiyu Tantu resource extends this opportunity to our families and provides a range of information and hands-on materials that can be used at home with family in a fun and culturally safe way.
“Additionally, the resource was curated thoughtfully and authentically by ensuring that First Nations community, artists and businesses were engaged in consultation, design and production of the end product.
“The southern launch at Taikurrendi provided a special opportunity for our families to connect, and highlighted for us the gift of First Nations language resources, and how they value-add to education and care in our centres and homes.”
The councils received a grant through the Department for Education and Local Government Association of SA’s Local Government Early Childhood Community Innovation Grants program to develop the backpacks, with the aim to improve emotional and social outcomes for children. Data from the Australian Early Development Census had highlighted these as local areas of concern.
The project also aims to improve literacy outcomes and access to books for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families; promote the benefits of reading and storytelling, including learning to speak, read and write more easily; promote a sense of safety, resilience, closeness and belonging with parents; and encourage the use of, and access to, First Languages.
The free backpacks are being distributed at Kalaya, Taikurrendi, Kura Yerlo (a PAE-based Aboriginal-owned community not-for-profit), libraries in Onkaparinga and PAE, Christie Downs Kindergarten and Neporendi Aboriginal Community Centre in Old Reynella.
City of Onkaparinga Mayor Moira Were said the 11 libraries and two home delivery services between Onkaparinga and Port Adelaide Enfield provided a range of library and information resources to communities, including 30 weekly events for the regions’ youngest residents.
“We know how important these special places are for early childhood development—through access to books, passionate staff, storytime sessions and more—so it’s a thrill to be able to offer these backpacks through our libraries, while promoting the Kaurna language,” Mayor Were said.
“It’s great to think of these new books in the hands of Onkaparinga children as they sit wrapped up with their loved ones, sharing stories and memories, and feeling safe and secure.”