DEVELOPING THE HONEY ANT READERS
Indigenous people in Central Australia are often talented linguists.
Many speak two, three, four or more languages.
Despite this, so many Indigenous children achieve below the National benchmarks in literacy tests. This prompted our research into their reading needs and led to my working collaboratively with members of the Indigenous community: Elders, adults, children and teachers.
The venture was a co-operative and collaborative one. Consultation, observation and recordings of stories and general conversational language formed the backbone to creating books specifically for Indigenous learners. The adults telling their stories wanted them to be used in the HAR series to help their children to learn to read.
These were to be books they could relate to, feel drawn to, read with ease and enjoy. All the HAR, stories and illustrations, are approved by Elders before being printed.
Commonly teachers in remote communities in Australia, where populations are very mobile, have classes in which some of the students are advanced readers, some beginners, some have hearing difficulties, some attend only 50% of the time and some arrive at school for the first time unable to speak Standard Australian English (SAE).
This means teachers have a great need for individual programs to use in their classrooms.
As well as in classes, the Honey Ant Readers are designed to be used in an individual program, that goes from pre-reading to advanced reading. The songs, board games and activity books can be used as group activities but it is preferable to read individually or in small groups when one can.
Many classroom assistants are tutors or volunteers. The material’s intent is to enable an unqualified assistant to work through the resources, whilst having fun and building the student’s self-confidence.
The Honey Ant Readers are used in a variety of educational environments:
They were originally written as the core texts of a ‘learn-to-read’ program. They have evolved to have other applications, such as:
- Initiating discussions about the role and use of AE in Australian communities, and the differences between AE and SAE in mainstream schools and universities.
- Being books for all parents to read with their children and picture books for young children to browse through.
- Giving young learners, adults and secondary students with little knowledge of print literacy an exciting, familiar and comfortable introduction into reading.
- Encouraging speaking through the use of the cards and board games.
Research into the development of the Honey Ant Readers started in 2008 with seed funding from DEEWR and they were introduced for use in schools in February 2010.