A strikingly illustrated story about a hungry crocodile, set to the tune of Mary Had A Little Lamb, is just one of the songs in a new book designed to help remote Indigenous children preserve their language.
The Yakanarra Song Book features 14 songs about animals, places, hunting and fishing, most written in the Walmajarri language of the Yakanarra community in WA’s Kimberley region.
From the Kimberley to Canberra
The book was launched at the National Library of Australia (NLA) today by Alison Lester, Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) ambassador and acclaimed children’s book author, with a performance from the children of the Yakanarra Community School.
Ms Lester and fellow ILF ambassador Chris Aitken visited Yakanarra in 2015 to work with the children and community elders Jessie Moora and Mary Vanbee, who wrote some of the songs set to tunes from the 1980s.
“Just in that short week these children made the most beautiful illustrations that you could have imagined.” Ms Lester said.
“They were excellent at not drawing clichés; when they drew trees, they drew the trees that looked like the trees out there.”
Learning and preserving language
The book was published through the ILF’s Community Literacy Program and is the third written in Walmajarri.
“It is why the foundation exists — to encourage and work with communities to publish the stories they want told,” ILF executive director Karen Williams said.
“We hope to get books into the hands of babies, toddlers before they reach school … in their first and own language, so by the time they get to school they’re used to books.”
Yakanarra year nine student Zarlia Vanbee said it was exciting to launch the book to a wide audience.
“For us it’s a big difference [because] a lot of books are not in languages,” Zarlia said.
“We want to put this out there for people to read and look at.”