WHY now? This is the poignant question from Littlescribe founder Jenny Atkinson with regard to supporting country kids build stronger literacy skills.
She says there has never been a more important time to help kids, given the pressures of drought, recent fires, and now coronavirus, to connect and heal through writing.
"Building literacy skills creates a reservoir of capability and helps students under pressure better navigate ways to communicate their needs, feelings and hopes, and opens up more choices," she said.
Littlescribe has partnered with Royal Far West to connect country and city students through the program 'My Life Story', where kids write, illustrate and publish their own books under the guidance of professional authors. Jenny said this builds confidence, while motivation is also given a boost by asking the student who they would like to read their story.
This is part of the 'Connection Matters' segment of the program, which Jenny says provides a real audience for every student as they share their unheard stories.
Additionally, the Littlescribe platform creates a legacy in the form of a digital library, which so far contains 10,000 original stories of inspiration, capability and resilience by students to read, share, and from which they can learn.
In just its second year, Littlescribe already has 65 schools from country and city areas involved. Some school communities affected by the drought and recent fires have even been gifted the program by city schools and organisations.
Jenny said she had noticed that while students in high-economic, metro areas at times regurgitated bullet points in their writing, country kids' stories often offered more emotional connection and creativeness.
"Country kids have a strong connection with their community and understand resilience," she said.
"Their writing is clever and honest, their insight means they powerfully take us into their world as they share their story."
The Land has partnered with Littlescribe to help get this resource out to more country kids.
This week is the first of an ongoing regular segment where The Land provides the opportunity for some of these student's stories to be showcased to our rural audience, providing a unique opportunity for these students to have their stories read by others.
Our initial featured story is Forbes Public School's Laura Chudleigh's "The Terrible Drought" (on the facing page), written with the guidance of professional author and entertainer Andrew Daddo.
"We know these kids have a lot to share and teach us about grit, humour and pride," Andrew said.
"It is a chance to show they are supported and to unlock and share their story."
The process involves professional authors co-authoring and co-illustrating the first two pages of a picture book, and then inviting the student to create the rest.
Reflecting on her story, which was created for the theme nature/environment/resilience, Laura said she knew instantly that she would write about the drought and her horses moving away.
"I decided to write about this experience because it was such a major event in my life. I love riding my horse, Mozart, with mum, around the farm and while they were gone I missed that so much," Laura said.
"I wanted to tell my story. It was important for me to tell others how I was feeling and how the drought affected me.
"I would like all of the city children to know what it was and is like for kids in the country.
"I hope my story gives hope to those who read it and remind everyone, that even in the hardest of times, if we all stick together we can achieve greatness and get through anything."
- Schools that wish to register can visit www.littlescribe.com