By STEVEN WINDUO
THE gem of writing is already present in young children by the time they start school. Through assisted learning, children can write some of the great stories in our societies. Imagine a writing and publishing program designed to help our children write and publish their own books.
I discovered this gem in my own children’s lives. Last year my daughter, Cheryl Winduo, published Two Sisters and Nokondi’s Head (2016), with illustrations by Tommy Ella. This is her first children’s book developed out of her writing first written as composition pieces in her Grade 5 class. I helped her to develop the first composition piece published as a children’s book. The Storm is her second children’s book, which is still in press. Cheryl, a mother now, read her first book to her son soon after his birth.
I discovered the same gem in the composition pieces that my son, Langston Winduo, wrote in his Grade 5 class at Waigani Primary School. I helped him develop one of his pieces into Two Brothers and a Wild Dog (2016), a children’s book published by Manui Publishers and UPNG Press, under a joint publishing arrangement. Langston is completing his Grade 12 at Jubilee Catholic Secondary, majoring in Science subjects.
Both books are now available at Theodist Limited and UPNG Bookshop.
Helping our young children write and publish their own stories as children’s books is an innovative intervention in a country that’s importing all its reading books from overseas.
It is an original idea that can help change a country struggling with lower levels of literacy and poor quality in written expressions at all levels of education.
Helping our children to develop their writing skills is as important as helping them develop their reading skills. Most of our children have thousands of stories to tell, but we need to help them write and publish these stories. If we could just develop a publishing program that helps to cultivate the writing and reading skills of our young children, we will go a long way.
In every child there are a thousand stories waiting to be written down.
So where is the PNG government initiative or platform for developing a writing and publishing program for our children? The Education Department through the Teacher Education Division, in collaboration with the Australian AID and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), came up with an innovative program in Library and Literature in 2014. A syllabus was designed to address the competency of teacher educators to impart skills and knowledge of books to trainee teachers. One of the important goal of this curriculum is for trainee teachers to learn how to help young children read and write their own books. There is, however, no evidence of children’s books published under this program. It is an innovative program, but the Education Department through the Teachers Colleges has yet to deliver on this promise.
What about our high schools and upper secondary schools? Many young children at this level, have unlimited enthusiasm to write and publish their own books. Who will help them to cross the line between a reader and a writer of one’s own books?
Who is in this picture? The National Libraries and Archives Board (NLAB) under its publishing programme, Flexible Open and Distance Education (FODE), and even the University of PNG Press and its co-publishing partners are potential players in this arena. Of course, funding for the writing and publishing program must come from somewhere, a responsibility that the government shies away from, leaving the playing field to CBOs and NGOs to enter with their own funds and platforms to develop, achieve, and sustain over a period of time.
A platform for developing children’s literature through writing and publishing workshops is part of the National Libraries and Archives 10 Year Development Plan. I see this platform as an important pillar for developing writing workshops leading to publication of children’s books. The National Libraries and Archives Services can run writing and publishing workshop throughout the country. Great initiative, but it can only do so if the National Government provides funding for its growth and development.
We need not complain if NGOs and CBOs duplicate national responsibilities and out-perform government agencies in promoting literacy and early childhood education. Where Government agencies fail to deliver, a vacuum is created, thereby opening the playground for other players with access to necessary resources to enter as partners in development.
Even if individual efforts to encourage the writing and publishing of children’s books have already begun, our books are not on the NDOE full list of resource materials endorsed by Board of Studies in the Curriculum Development & Assessment Division of the Department of Education. I have failed in all my efforts to get my books, including the children’s books, on this list.
The future of developing the writing skills of our children and publishing children’s books is there, but the resources to develop and sustain it, is desired.
I think it makes sense to invest in the future of the community through developing relevant local reading materials for use in the local schools, and perhaps beyond the immediate locality.
With classrooms built without libraries and locally written and published reading materials, the platform to educate our people is unstable. It is not that costly to begin an innovative community development program such as children’s book writing and publishing program.
Children’s book writing and publishing is a collaboration between various stakeholders: school children, teachers, writers, editors, illustrators, curriculum writers, photographers, graphic artists, ICT specialists, printers, community storytellers, librarians, volunteers, education advisors, community and national leaders.
Our people will do what they are expected to do, but without money nothing gets done. That’s where political leadership is needed. Funding a writing and publishing program to develop the writing and reading skills of our children will have an immeasurable effect in our nation.
The future for this nation to rise up is anchored in this vision. The present situation has to change for the better.
Help our children write books.
By STEVEN WINDUO