HARs – HELPING INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS TO READ SINCE 2009
The Honey Ant® Readers are a unique and innovative series of learn-to-read books with complementary resources, developed for Australian Indigenous learners to make literacy learning relevant, meaningful, engaging and fun. Margaret Kemarre James, Education Lecturer/Linguist, works in close collaboration with Central Australian Aboriginal Elders and community in ongoing production of exciting, significant new materials to help their children to learn ‘2-ways’.
The HARs, underpinned by empirical and theoretical research, include books in Aboriginal languages, light Aboriginal English and Standard Australian English. They actively support the maintenance of Indigenous languages and culture, and the first 3 HARs are available in 7 traditional Aboriginal languages with audio CD.
The first edition of the Honey Ant Readers includes features of light Aboriginal English (AE), with the text gradually and systemically moving into colloquial Standard English (SAE) across the 20 books. This is done by following the natural order in which speakers of other languages have been shown to acquire the grammatical structures of Standard English.
Because we publish locally we are able to make changes based on feedback from schools and students using the books, thus keeping the resources dynamic. Since our first edition in AE, which moves gradually into SAE, we have published a Standard English edition.
When we develop books with, and for, communities for their own use, in their own languages, we put out proofs as trials. Based on feedback, we make changes before doing the final print run. The community in this way has control and ownership of the product.
Materials for very young, emergent readers include A5 pictures with matching words, large coloured word sets, card sets, board games, activity books, drawing books and songs and rhymes. All of which encourage interactive learning and prepare the young beginners for reading. The 123 colourful conversation cards are used to encourage oral and written language, as well as for counselling, role play and many other games and activities. A significant and popular adjunct to the reading materials are activities which have a focus on phonics and grammar, such as original songs and rhymes. These assist learners of English as an additional language in acquiring Standard Australian English. The ‘Song and Rhyme’ book, plus audio CD, will be available in our shop in 2015.
The HAR program teaches reading by incorporating aspects of Aboriginal English in the text and builds oral Standard Australian English through songs and rhymes.
We know that it is very difficult for people to learn to read and write in a language they do not speak.
We also know that once a person can read in one language, they can transfer that skill to another.
With the Honey Ant Readers, learners learn to read in the language they speak in the playground, their lingua franca, while giving that language respect. In the case of many Indigenous Australians this is a form of Aboriginal English. The learners can then transfer their reading skills to reading and writing in Standard Australian English.
At the same time the Honey Ant Readers reinforce and teach oral Standard Australian English through rhymes and songs, written specifically with Aboriginal English speakers in mind. Once Standard Australian English has been acquired orally, learning to read in that language is easier because it is meaningful.
Three Standard English books outside of the series include:
1. ‘Colours’ – a bright, colourful, interactive book set in Central Australia. It is a useful resource for teaching spoken Standard Australian English, and is accompanied by matching cards.
2. ‘Thank you’– a big book, with audio CD, set in sub-Saharan Africa. It reinforces all the important things in life such as family, friends, food and sunshine!
3. ‘My Kite’ – a cheerful little book, with audio CD, set in SE Asia. By focusing on a single vowel sound, it helps young learners to become aware of the sounds in English through the easy-to-read text, rhymes and songs.
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