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Our Yarning – an Aboriginal library collection

20 May 2021, Impact of Our Work

Bringing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories to all Australians

In remote communities all across Australia access to quality, educational and engaging books can be hard to find. Libraries and bookshops do not always exist, and children can be left behind in literacy because their reading skills aren’t challenged and grown.
In 2019, the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) revealed that only 33% of Aboriginal children in very remote areas met the national standard for Year 5 reading, while 96% of non-Aboriginal children met the standard in major cities.
That’s why Save the Children’s Library For All  has developed its first collection of Aboriginal story books for children – a collection called Our Yarning. These books will give children a range of stories that reflect their background as colourful, engaging learning resources.

Reading in the early years has great outcomes

Dr Julie Owen is the Program Manager (Australian Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Operations) at Library For All. As a former teacher and health educator she knows how far reading can take children.
For so many Aboriginal children access to books that they can relate to and learn from can give them opportunities and help them make more positive choices as they grow up. Disengaged learners who leave school early are at greater risk of unemployment, earning lower incomes and social exclusion at three times the rate of those who complete Year 12.

Dr Julie Owen

Dr Julie Owen
Photo: Supplied

A rich tradition of storytelling

While building literacy is a key target of the collection, so is the authenticity of the storytelling.

“Aboriginal people have a rich tradition of storytelling,” says Julie. “Our history is storytelling, it’s drawings, bark, sand and cave paintings. In Aboriginal storytelling, often the visual image is the story.”
So for children who are learning to read or struggling to grow their reading ability, Julie says the story is just as important. “If you can't read, you can still relate to the pictures and build a connection that your story is valued.”
The books will be written in English, but Julie hopes they’ll soon be translated into local languages.
“We're aiming to get as many stories as we can written in English by Aboriginal people so that the kids can see reflected in the books their ways of doing things. They’ll relate to stories about hunting, fishing, family connections, ceremonies and community life. Then we are hoping we can get the books translated into local Aboriginal languages. Unfortunately, many Aboriginal languages are critically endangered, or have been lost completely. It may be difficult to get books translated in some languages, because many of the elders, who can speak fluently are gone.”

No barriers to kids’ reading

Library For All’s digital library is available for free via an app through Google Play. The app contains a unique, curated collection of high-quality children’s books developed by authors and illustrators across the globe. The books are age appropriate, culturally relevant and engaging for kids.

The Our Yarning collection of Aboriginal books will also be available to all on the Library For All app. Julie is optimistic about Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children having access to the collection through the app.
“It’s a whole library that can be downloaded for free, available on a phone,” she explains. “Children without access to a physical library or bookshop, can read whenever they want. It’s making books available for those kids that would otherwise miss out.”
With the collection set to grow in the coming years, there’s no doubt, “Our Yarning” will help make the literacy journey for Aboriginal children a success.

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