Amelia Turner, Arrernte Elder

We like the books because they are well set out and well illustrated. At least the kids can know the words of the books. They usually open a book and see always a white person. At least here they got their own. It looks like them.

Also the environment. It’s all about the kids, where they go, where they enjoy going. It’s real life for them, you know.

Dr Chris Sarra

Engaging children in reading can be a complex and difficult process. This can be even more complex where children speak a language other than English, and come from a background that is vastly different to other Australians.

The Honey Ant Reader series is a grassroots reading program developed in consultation with community. Honey Ant Readers enable Aboriginal children to read in the language of their playground from meaningful material carefully scaffolded, while keeping abreast of Standard English through specific speaking and singing activities.

The Honey Ant Reader approach lets children ‘see themselves’ and their own stories in text, enabling greater familiarity, confidence and enthusiasm for reading.

Vincent Forrester, Chairman of Mutitjulu at Uluru

“Honey Ant Readers are the way we’ve got to go. Kids have got to love learning. And if they can learn in their own language, language is the guts of their culture. There needs to be more foresight in the development of the curriculum. Education must reflect the society of the area it is in. There needs to be empowerment not only with the kids but the adults that will let the community understand the value of education. Honey Ant Readers gets the adults involved. Colonialist education is not working. There needs to be change. I believe with these little books and Anangu you can bring about change.”

Jessica Mauboy

The Honey Ant Readers are a great example of two-way education, using Aboriginal culture to help children learn to read in English. The readers are a culturally relevant learning resource that students can relate to.

Elders, Aunty Irene and Aunty Kella from Shepparton, VIC

“Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing, Margaret. You are really helping Aboriginal kids right across the country. Your books are making a big difference to our kids. We love you very, very much, darling.”

Dr Jakelin Troy, Ngarigu woman

These are wonderful books that all kids should have access to. This is the exact resource we need for our National Languages Curriculum.

Carolyn Kassis, Principal, Epenarra School, NT

“The class I introduced the Honey Ant Readers to absolutely loved them, and kept me going on them well over the allotted lesson time and there was a lot of oral discussion (unusual for that particular group). I have shared the Honey Ant Reader website and Moodle Link on the NT Deadly Tech Facebook and recommended it to teachers. I believe that kids could do great things with the lyrics of the songs using an iPad App called DM1 The Drum Machine, which allows students to create beats with drumming and clapping and other great stuff, and then we could share them on the Moodle. We could also record readings of the stories with iPad and embed the various readings along with the texts. There is so much that could be done with the digital versions of these texts in terms of exploiting content for ESL/EALD purposes and making them truly authentic resources for local children and families too. Wonderful books! Wonderful ideas.”

Thank you for your hard work, Margaret! Katrina Totman

“Hi Margaret, I just wanted to let you know that I am a BIG fan of yours! I met you a few years ago at the ALEA National Conference where I sat in on your elective session on the Honey Ant Readers. My mother-in-law is the principal on a remote island off the top of the Northern Territory called Elcho Island. So I have found it very interesting firstly attending your conference session, then following your Facebook and visiting your website. I am currently completing a university assignment on teaching English to EAL/D students and you can create your imaginary class. I am contemplating creating a class in Central Australia and using your books and programmes as a base for my assignment. This has led me to reading your work and endlessly browsing your website and I am so inspired! This email had no particular purpose other than to encourage you and thank you for your hard work in Indigenous Literacy. The way in which you integrate the creative arts and singing into your literacy lessons is inspiring. I look to your career in education as something to aspire towards. You are truly inspirational, the difference you have made in so many lives of young Australians and their communities. What a gift you are.” Katrina Totman

Kevin O’Keefe, Executive Principal Ngaanyatjarra Lands School

The Ngaanyatjarra Lands School has incorporated the Honey Ant Readers, and supporting professional development from Margaret, as a mainstay of our literacy program across the 9 campuses of our school. All of our schools are in remote Aboriginal communities and the students are learning SAE as a second or third language or dialect, speaking an Aboriginal language or Aboriginal English in their day-to-day lives. The HAR recognise and value the language they speak and provides a fantastic reading resource that is contextually relevant and instantly recognisable. They see themselves, their families and their country in the books and EVERY student who has been introduced to the books has loved them. Our Aboriginal educators and families also love the books and the fact that they can readily engage with the learning. Teachers and AIEOs are finding many ways to use the books and associated resources across the different curriculum areas – not just in literacy. The conversation cards are a great resource for oral language and provide an excellent opportunity for students and adults alike to choose the language in which they tell, or create, the stories from them. The Ngaanyatjarra Lands School will continue to use the Honey Ant Readers as an important part of our work and hope to continue our engagement with Margaret and staff into the future.”


The children love the Honey Ant books and find the stories very interesting.

We read the books during group times and the children also sing the songs.

The books are also developing the children’s language skills and we have pretend play in our outside sandpit like nana and the children digging for honey ants.

Thanks so much for the great books that we can use in our Centre.

The Minister for Education, the Hon. Julia Gillard MP

It is encouraging to see innovative interventions to improve literacy skills for Indigenous children having such a positive impact on the Indigenous community.

The Australian government too is committed to assist all students to realise their full potential.

Thank you for your strong commitment in progressing improvements in the education of Indigenous students. The department will be interested in hearing of future developments with The Honey Ant Reading Program in the Northern Territory.

Year 3 student’s message to HAR

This is for Margaret from Kyemma:
‘I liked that the story started off at the camp at Jay Creek. The snake was blind but he should be able to smell the kids.’

Hon Jenny Macklin MP

I was touched to receive several books from the series last month. I was particularly struck by their originality and the way in which these books have acknowledged and incorporated Aboriginal culture in Australia to provide an effective teaching aid for Indigenous-language speaking children.

I also enjoyed reading the background information you provided me on how this series of books was developed and the ways in which they use themes and stories that are consistent with Aboriginal children’s knowledge and experience of the world. I was especially interested to learn more about how the books have been able to assist Indigenous-language speaking children in Central Australia through using language that is sympathetic to the Aboriginal English shared by these children in the playground.

I am pleased to hear that the Honey Ant Readers books are delivering results and that you are receiving orders from other schools interested to know about this series. I look forward to hearing more about the books’ success and their positive effects on achievement levels in print literacy amongst Indigenous children.

I have forwarded the Honey Ant Readers on to the Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Social Inclusion, the Hon Simon Crean MP, as an example of the good work that is being done in this important area of Indigenous education.

Congratulations on the success of this innovative program!

Mum of 3 finds HAR to be the motivator

February 2012: Mum of 3, Amber, is using the Honey Ant Readers with her children with great success: “I have been desperately trying to ensure that my daughter doesn’t have the same difficulties at school that I did. My 6 year old was struggling to read anything or be interested and what they got from school seemed too easy. We got a set of HAR BOOKS 1 – 10 which my daughter calls ‘Nana Dig books’.

The children love the BINGO CARDS as they are quite competitive and good fun. The COLOUR CARDS involve both the 18 month and three year old. WORD CARDS for playing snap are a hit too especially for my eldest. My 3 year old is using the book COLOURS and loves the clothes and animals. To my surprise she is counting the honey ants in the cup already! My eldest has taken to carrying Book 7 around with her most places and is already reading up to Book 9, having started from scratch just a few weeks ago!”
According to Amber, the books have really helped where other readers from school hadn’t.
5 June 2012: UPDATE: Amber’s eldest has finished reading all the books now!
Well done from the HAR team to a great Mum and trio of beautiful daughters!

Rosemary Swayo

This is a wonderful set of readers. I am currently using them with my Preschoolers (age 3 and 4) and I tell you, awesome results are coming out of them.

They are actually beginning to write words that they are familiar with.

Life-changing invention

Margaret, I feel that this invention of yours is going to be life changing for many.
When I learnt to read and write I used Aboriginal English -and it was only later that I learnt SAE.

Veronica Ecenarro  Primary school teacher, WA.

Libby Nuss, Tutor

I work with year one and two Aboriginal children.

I work regularly with the Honey Ant series and find that it is perfect for emergent readers. It engages them on a culturally appropriate level (unlike so many ‘Western’ reader programs and alphabet charts) and it provides a gentle learning curve where the children feel like they are achieving.

I particularly like working with the picture, picture/word and word cards as they provide great flexibility and creativity.

I use them to help the children gain confidence when they are progressing to a new level plus I use them to play a variety of games such as memory, bingo and ‘pile as many blue (toy) dinosaurs as you can on the word “ant”’.

The set up of the system is so flexible that the possibilities are endless which helps to keep the kids engaged and having fun.

Teaching students to read in their own dialect works

Our school has a disproportionately high percentage of students with very low concentration span, and who don’t know how to follow instructions.

Our students often have trouble settling into class, behavioural management issues, erratic and irrational, very emotional behaviours in class.

The HAR program reviews the alphabet and word-attack skills. HAR books in conjunction with flash card/memory games have helped many students to have the confidence to attempt reading new words.

SS report enjoying the reading; concentration was at a deeper and stronger level than usually observed in regular classes.

SS often demand another book, or demand we re-read the book over and again. They especially love the songs at the end of some of the books.

SS decode the pictures and memorise that certain pictures have a corresponding collection of symbols, they soon learn to recognise these symbols and therefore begin to read.

From here I can review the alphabet and word attack skills to enable the SS to begin to break down new words and attempt to make the sounds. Step by step the HAR books guide the SS to higher levels of reading.

As SS gain confidence with words they already know, they build up from there. Confidence and risk taking are major factors.

As educators, we are aware that Standard English is a second language for our students, and teaching them to read in their own dialect not only makes sense, it works.

The stories are about their own culture, many SS report going looking for honey ants or catching goannas for dinner with their families over the weekends. Because these stories actually ring true for the students, and it is something they can relate to, I observe that this is very interesting and relevant for them.

Other factors, including the fact that in Arrernte there is barely any difference between the sound of “P” and “B” or “K” and “G” have been taken into account and SS get to practice recognising these sounds whilst reading the HAR books.

SS who told me they couldn’t read, who were scared to try, now can read and it’s very satisfying to be a facilitator for these children’s learning. For anyone working with Indigenous students, I would recommend that you try the HAR program.

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