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3 underestimated First Nations children's books.

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

Hi everyone, wow! Thanks for reading my first blog post! I am so excited to share with you these amazing children's books just in time for Indigenous Literacy Day. So let's get into it!

All those years ago, way back when I was in primary school, I have loved children's books but in particular; First Nations children's books. Thankfully, since I was little, things have changed quite a bit. These days, there is such an amazing range of children’s books written and illustrated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and illustrators, showing us just how far things have come and making it much easier for teachers to incorporate First Nations Perspectives into their teaching (compared to the one series of dreaming books that were available when I was growing up).

This post is all about sharing with you 3 popular First Nations children's books that I believe are hugely underestimated. I will go through some examples and ideas for how you can use these books in your classroom and right at the end there will be a teaching resource to help you embed these books into your teaching and really highlight and celebrate First Nations peoples and cultures in your classroom.

OK, so without further ado, let's get stuck into these books.

1. The Amazing A to Z Thing By Sally Morgan and Bronwyn Bancroft

All I have to say is… that there is a reason that this book was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s ‘Notable Book’ of the year. The way Sally Morgan and Bronwyn Bancroft have come together to create such a beautiful and educational resource with such depth, it is just incredible!

At first glance, I would suggest that this is most suitable for infants (K/ Prep – Year 2), as it really does lend itself to exploring the alphabet through a very wide range of Australian animals.

The illustrations throughout the whole book are just so beautiful and bright. They relate easily to the text, making it simple for younger readers to decipher the relationship between the two.

However, as with most resources there is always room for adaption and it really does depend on how you as a teacher deliver it to your class. For example; if you were to focus on the emphasis that Sally Morgan places on emotions throughout the book, then you could quite easily adapt this book for higher grades.

It is also interesting that the ‘Amazing Thing’ is not mentioned by name throughout the entire book, leaving readers wondering what exactly is this ‘Amazing Thing’ that makes the characters feel all of these wonderful emotions.

If you did really want to stretch your kiddos minds or use this book for upper Primary or possibly high school, researching Sally Morgan as an author and unveiling her passion for promoting the love of literacy and reading, particularly within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, will lead teachers and students to discover what the ‘Amazing Thing’ really is…. books.

With all of this said… bottom line; I can’t express how much I love this book! I really think it is underestimated and restricted to just an alphabet book, which for Kindergarten or Prep it is ideal, however, this book is truly so much more.

2. Our World Bardijaawi, Life at Ardiyooloon by One Arm Point Remote Community School.

This book is simply incredible! It covers everything! No joke, everything! Seasons, history, geography, procedures, language, traditional stories, cooking, bush foods, family and kinship systems and so much more.

I would probably suggest that this book would be more suited for primary (years 3 – 6) or even high school rather than infants (K/ Prep – year 2), simply because it is quite lengthy (64 pages in total) and the content is quite detailed. These factors are not downfalls by any means, they are really what makes the book so incredible. Although, in saying this, reading this book in one sitting may be a bit much, even for year 6. I would suggest breaking it up into sections and relating it to your focus for the term or even making this book your focus for the term. It wouldn’t be hard, like I said it covers everything.

Throughout this book, you will see beautiful bright illustrations made by the students of One Arm Point Community School. This is a great way to incorporate Aboriginal art into your lessons, through art appreciation rather than copying or creating “inspired Aboriginal artworks” which should not be done. I would strongly encourage all teachers who have not done so already, to visit the NSW Reconciliation Council’s page on Culturally Competent Teaching to familiarise yourself with the correct ways to develop teaching programs and lesson plans when incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. This page will give you a great guide on what you can teach yourself and when you should work with your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Community to provide your students with the most respectful and authentic learning experience.

This book, as with most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources, has been made in consultation with Elders of the local Community to ensure laws were followed correctly and lessons were respectfully delivered. Therefore, if you are wishing to replicate any of the lessons or procedures from this book in your classroom, you will also need to do this in consultation with your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Community before implementing the lesson.

Magabala Books also has created a set of teacher notes which accompany this book so be sure to check this out too.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It is beautifully presented, wonderfully written and covers so many topics. The students, teachers and staff of One Arm Point Remote Community School should be so proud of themselves.

3. A is for Aunty by Elaine Russell

‘A is for Aunty’, was awarded ‘Short – Listed Book’ by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and is one of my favourite books. I have used this book so many times, particularly when I was on year 1. I found that it was a fantastic way to teach the alphabet which also easily incorporated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives into my literacy and handwriting lessons as well.

This children’s book is wonderfully written with colourful illustrations which easily reflect the text. What I love most about this ‘A is for Aunty’ is that you can choose to either read the entire book, or like I did; divide it up into sections and teach each letter as you need them. This works well because the story for each letter in the book is not related directly to the next which makes it easy to integrate to your letter of the week.

The other reason I love this book is that the storyline is so relatable for all students as it is about growing up and family. From here you could create a range of activities based around family and activities you do with your family and so on.

I would suggest that this book is most suited for Kindergarten / Prep to year 2. However, it would be possible to adapt this for a HASS lesson for older students by simply focusing in the storyline rather than the alphabet. Alternatively, you could use Elaine Russell’s biography, at the back of the book, as your focus, particularly if you are looking at exposing your students to a range of text types this is an amazing way to demonstrate the contrast between a narrative and an information text such as a biography.

Overall this book is a truly wonderful insight in to Elaine Russell’s childhood and growing up on the local Aboriginal mission while teaching students the alphabet. I would absolutely consider this book to be an asset to my collection and encourage you to give it a go in your classroom, regardless of what grade you are teaching.

Please remember, as with all books, reading them is simply the starting point. As teachers we know the importance of deeper meaning and understanding and these three books really lend themselves to this. For anyone wondering how they can go about teaching a lesson using these books or any First Nations books, I have made an editable First Nations Author Study Bulletin Board display which will showcase any First Nations author in your classroom, so you can use it over and over and over again for any author. If you would like to take a look just click the picture to check it out.

I hope you have loved my fist blog post, I know I have loved sharing it with you! Thank you so much for your continued support and I look forward to seeing all of the different authors you showcase on your bulletin boards.

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