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.
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.
Research shows that learners whose first language is not English, make faster progress in reading, and read with deeper comprehension, when the material is familiar to them, even though the language may not be. (So much of the material currently available is heavily Anglo-centric, culturally inappropriate and has little relevance for students in remote communities where little, if any, Standard English is spoken.)
The first edition of the Honey Ant Readers includes features of light Aboriginal English (AE), in the first 10 books, with the text gradually and systemically moving into colloquial Standard English (SAE) across the 10 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.
Materials for very young, emergent readers include A5 pictures with matching words, 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 HARs teach reading by incorporating aspects of Aboriginal English into the text and building 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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