As an early childhood teacher on a journey to integrate Te Reo Māori meaningfully into my work with children I have found its really hard to find resources appropriate for the infant and toddler age group. Most bilingual books seem to explore legends or involve story lines more relevant to preschool aged children. Finally I came across the most beautiful books that are absolutely perfect for infants and toddlers! I'm really excited to share with you all about Reo Pēpi's beautiful bilingual pukupuka created by Dunedin māmā Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson.
I discovered Reo Pēpi's first series of books in Good Magazine and immediately I knew I had to have them! As an artist, the illustrations captured me and the simple sentences both in Te Reo Māori and English were perfect for the infants and toddlers I teach. Reo Pēpi's books are interactive and really invite the children to join in. “Kanohi” has been the favourite in my room, focusing on the face and naming all the different parts. My children just love showing off their knowledge of this area and practicing the words in Te Reo Māori. The other two books in the series are called “Kākahu” which is all about getting dressed and “Kararehe” which is all about animals. As this resource became so well loved, I was beyond excited about the release of Series 2 which featured 3 books about counting, shapes and colours. I actually preordered it I was so keen! I can say they were worth the wait. The children in my classroom have just loved them and again, the interactive nature of the books really captured them. Counting, colours and shapes are concepts toddlers are familiar with and often discuss with their teachers and parents so they were excited to see something they recognised and could become involved in. Using Te Reo was meaningful for them and added a new challenge. I think what really makes these books amazing is that they are relevant to infants and toddlers every day lives and sadly its really hard to find appropriate resources that promote Te Reo for this age group.
So obviously, our infants and toddlers are crazy about these books but something else that I find so special has emerged from them. As some of you know, I work in a very multicultural community and in just my classroom around 10 different languages are spoken. One day I was reading “Te Kaute” from series 2 which is about counting with a few of the children. One of the Grandmothers who is from Germany had come to collect her Granddaughter and observed me reading to the children. “What language is this?” she asked me and I explained to her that I was reading in Te Reo Māori. She was intrigued that I was reading in another language with the children and it opened up an opportunity for me to have a conversation with her about why Te Reo Māori is important and relevant for all the children growing up in Aotearoa, including children who have immigrated here. I think it is very cool that reading these books with the children has opened up opportunities to have dialogues with families who come from all around the world about something so important to New Zealand.
These books have really increased the teachers knowledge of Te Reo Māori and we have all picked up new words from the books that we are now integrating in to our day to day conversations with children. I think its really great that these books come with a pronunciation guide included in the back. This has been really useful for us to work on pronunciation.
I am really happy these amazing resources are out there and I think every childcare centre and home should have them! Kitty and Kirsten, you should be so proud of what you’ve achieved with these books - there really is nothing out there like this and I hope to see a series 3 in the future!