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A Library for Solomon Islanders

06 August 2021, Impact of Our Work

Library For All, a not for profit enterprise of Save the Children Australia, has released 350 new children’s books for the Solomon Islands, including books in the local dialect, Arosi. Library For All’s Program Manager in the Solomon Islands, Natasha Sokeleke, says the books will help teachers and students with literacy in English and Arosi.
 
200 of the books in the collection are also newly written, by local authors including teachers, nurses, environmentalists, and even high school students. “We run writers’ workshops,” explains Natasha. “We invite people who are interested in writing stories for children that cover key themes – art, health and hygiene, science, and culture and community. At the end of the workshops, we collect the manuscripts, edit them, then publish them,” she said.

Books are a window and a mirror

Most of the books currently available to children in the Solomon Islands are from other countries and cultures, or ‘window’ books, which offer glimpses beyond a child's experience – to other places and cultures, opening a child's imagination to new possibilities and understanding how their community fits in to the rest of the world.  Meanwhile, ‘mirror’ books reflect a child's world, what they know, and validates their lived experiences.  Children need books they can relate to and engage with – books that reflect their own lives. Library For All, working with local authors, is publishing a mix of both ‘window’ and ‘mirror’ books.  Across its collections, Library For All aims for 70% mirror and 30% window books, making it vital that communities are engaged in creating mirror stories for their children.

Our authors have written books that are about our own culture, and our ways of living so children can actually reflect on what is actually happening in their country.

Natasha

Books range in reading levels for early learners through to older children who have been reading for a few years. They cover the gamut of topics – from staying safe during COVID-19 restrictions to stories about how local festivals and holy days are celebrated, ensuring children are excited to keep learning.
 
“We have Micronesians, Polynesians and Melanesians living in the Solomon Islands, and we have books from various authors with different backgrounds writing about how they live in their cultures,” says Natasha.“It's very interesting to see how the authors are very creative in their individual ways in writing the children’s books relating to their own cultural backgrounds. They are helping kids to learn about themselves and the other cultures that surround them.”
 


PhotoLibrary For All brought together writers to add to the collection of local stories.
Credits: Library for All

Learning in their mother tongue

Research shows that children learn better when they learn in their mother tongue or first language1. So, 50 of the 350 books in the new collection are written in one of the local languages, Arosi. The books were created specifically for a new vernacular school in the Makira-Ulawa province.“They need more reading resources for those children who are learning in their own mother tongue. And so, we engaged the local educators to write some stories,” says Natasha.
 
“For children to see the stories written in their own mother tongue is very exciting. Most of the teaching resources we have are written in English. So children hear and learn to read in English when they're in the classroom. But when they're back at home they hear people speaking in Arosi. It's a bit hard for the children. It's very important for them to read in their own mother tongue as well, because it helps their literacy. And starting to read in their own mother tongue is the first step, the building block, for children to actually learn.”
 
With thanks to the new books they have now, the children of the Solomon Islands will be able to read and learn their way to a better future.
 
1 World Bank, Education Notes 38906, 2005 https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/374241468763515925/pdf/389060Language00of1Instruct01PUBLIC1.pdf

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