Literacy tackled in two languages


It is more than 2500 kilometres from Kempsey to Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, but the early childhood literacy work piloted in NSW is about to begin on the island … with one big difference.The preschoolers, aided by family and other community members, will be taught in both the Anindilyakwa language and English. Mary-Ruth Mendel, the chairwoman of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, said the combination of speech pathology and educational understanding significantly improved children’s entry to school. ”Playing games and activities designed by [us] in the Anindilyakwa language and in English develops strong oral language skills and crucial brain development,” she said. ”These skills are essential stepping stones towards strong English reading and writing development.” The speech therapy component helped children reach an ”aha” moment, she said, when deciding whether they were listening with their ”English ears rather than their Anindilyakwa ears”. The Territory’s Department of Education has signed a three-year contract for the program. Up to 130 children will have access to it.