Indigenous Literacy Day

Today is Indigenous Literacy Day. I forgot. Actually I didn’t forget. Anita Heiss, author extraordinaire has been blogging, Facebooking and fundraising it like crazy the past two weeks.

So I didn’t exactly forget. I’m just disorganised and I haven’t planned anything. Indigenous Literacy Day is about raising awareness and money about the low levels of children’s literacy in remote Australian communities. The call is to go and buy a book to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation who distribute books to communities around Australia. If you can, you should do that. It’s a good thing to buy books for kids and communities who don’t have access to them. Books are important.

But if you can’t buy a book and you’re not in a position to donate any money, you can still ‘do’ literacy for free for your family. You see literacy is more than just books. Literacy and to be literate is to have command of or have power over (or in) language. To be literate is to be able to say what you want in the way that you want when you want or need it. To have power in your language is to have choices about how your express yourself. If you have language power you can choose to express yourself visually, orally, and/or in a wide variety of written formats.

Being functionally literate, the level or type of literacy required to be able to function in your community, is essential. This is the type of literacy that is necessary to complete forms, send messages, read signs etc. But functional literacy is only one part of the story of language. Just like mathematical thinking is more than just numbers, growing language power is more than reading books, it’s about viewing, talking, engaging, thinking, questioning, innovating and creating.

I think one of the key components to growing language power is to not be frightened – don’t be frightened to ask questions and don’t be frightened to admit when you don’t know the answer. My kids are always asking me questions that I struggle to find an answer for. If I can’t answer it, we’ll think of someone who might be able to, we’ll google it, or we put it ‘on the shelf’ and come back to it later.

Some free literacy activities you can do with your family, in your language:

  • Talk about ‘old days’ and what’s the same or different today
  • Shoot, edit and share a video about a family event
  • Start a family blog that shares pictures, stories and news from your extended family
  • Create a presentation of photographs for a family member’s birthday or anniversary and write captions under each photo
  • Play word games around the dinner table or in the car, eg. name an animal starting with the last letter of the previous animal Fish > Horse > Elephant
  • Write your own books (this one applies to EVERY person of EVERY age in your family)
  • Write lists and checklists
  • Create a family calendar that everyone can contribute to
  • Talk about the world, what’s wrong and how we can make it better
  • Write a letter to your local member and give them feedback. Share the responses with your family
  • Create a own card and/or board games and play it with the members of your family
  • Draw and talk about what you’ve drawn
  • Watch a movie together and talk about what you liked or didn’t like and why and/or compare it with other movies,

Books are fantastic. They open worlds to readers. They also provide excellent stimulus for the creation of new ways of expression and new creations. But books are just one part of the story of language.

Check out the Indigenous Literacy Foundation video and donate if you can:

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