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Translating much-loved children’s books to support early literacy development for Indigenous children

Five of the six translations of Eric Carle's classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Photo Credit: ILF

Six new translations of The Very Hungry Caterpillar have been published this year by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) to support early literacy development for Indigenous children in remote communities.

Narnyindar buryuyur Windarjkarnyi is the title of Eric Carle’s much-loved classic translated into Karwar, an Indigenous language spoken on the banks of the McArthur River and along the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory.

The translated story is an important step forward in providing indigenous children with an authentic and meaningful interaction with the book.

It will support children’s literacy journey in the languages they are most fluent in.

The story will also be available in Aboriginal English, Dhuwaya, Kriol, Murrinhpatha and Pitjantjatjara.

With the support of the Wylie Foundation and Geneva-based Magic Libraries Foundation, the ILF have a further six translated versions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar planned for 2023.

The Create Initiative with their published works Japarrika Rises. Image Credit: ILF

The published translations are one of several ways the ILF is driving forward literacy programs for all ages, empowering First Nations communities to lead their literacy journeys centred on Indigenous culture and language.

This year alone, the organisation has delivered 120,000 culturally relevant books to over 400 remote communities and relaunched the Create Initiative with two programs for the first time.

The Create Initiative, which has produced seven books, partners young Indigenous women at Tiwi College in the Northern Territory with mentors and publishers to provide a platform to create and write their own stories.

ILF Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ben Bowen, said that it is critical that authentic literacy initiatives for First Nations people are community-led.

“Understanding the context and strength of Community is required to guide literacy development and ensure the best outcomes,” Mr Bowen said.

“The way Community implement language and sentence structures in original stories or translations, blending English and other languages, provides a great learning scaffold for the understanding and development of literacy.”

Early literacy journeys developing in the Tiwi Islands. Image Credit: Tiffany Parker


Mr Bowen also highlighted a pivotal change in Australia’s literary landscape towards supporting and recognising Indigenous writing.

“It is an amazing time as a few years ago, the lists of published Indigenous stories were shorter, and now there is an abundance of amazing Indigenous authors,” Mr Bowen said.

“You only have to go to your local bookshop and see they are not contained to a single shelf anymore; they are across every genre and all over the shelves.”

Sharing his 2022 reading list, Mr Bowen recommended the works of Indigenous authors Anita Heiss, Veronica Gorrie, Nardi Simpson, Karlie Noon & Krystal De Napoli, Dr Chelsea Watego, Bruce Pascoe, Uncle Wes Marne, and Terri Janke.

To find out more about the ILF’s literacy programs, purchase an ILF book or donate, visit:
https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/

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Rosie Forsyth

Rosie Forsyth is a Business Analyst by day and a creative writer by night. A passionate social justice advocate and keen volunteer, Rosie has worked for Greenpeace, spent 3 months in rural Nepal supporting with monsoon recovery and was a Community Responder in London during Covid-19. Rosie has completed a Bachelor of International Relations and English Literature and is pursuing a Masters of Publishing in 2023.

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