In 2012, the Big Book Club Inc. in partnership with MyLanguage (now defunct) launched a new multilingual DVD and audio resource to support Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families. The resource is based on the existing multilingual children’s picture book, Wilbur, which was published under The Little Big Book Club reading development initiative in 2010.
Written by renowned children’s author Phil Cummings and illustrated by Amanda Graham, Wilbur introduces concepts about Australian culture and recreation in a fun and educational way. Suitable for children aged 0-5 years, it is the first multilingual children’s picture book of its kind to be produced in Australia, with over 10,000 copies distributed free to new arrivals families since its release. 3500 were distributed throughout Queensland through public libraries working closely with community members, groups and organisations.
Wilbur was produced to provide families that do not have English as a second language with the opportunity to share stories in their first language. It is documented that children develop emergent literacy skills that are transferable across languages, so whether parents read aloud in their first language or in English, the benefits remain the same. Unfortunately, for many Australian children from bilingual backgrounds, opportunities for first language literacy before second language literacy are few and far between (Jones-Diaz 1997). This is why providing multilingual resources such as Wilbur is important for bilingual children as it can support oral and literacy development in both the first and second languages, leading to socio-cultural, linguistic and cognitive gains.
Building on the success of Wilbur, the multilingual DVD and audio resource has been developed to complement the book in digital ready, easily accessible formats. The result is a series of book readings available to watch and listen to in 14 different languages including: Somali, Tamil, Burmese, Persian-Farsi, Dinka, Hindi, Khmer, Nuer, Amharic, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, French and English.
The Wilbur DVD featuring the readings is available to borrow from every public library across Australia. The DVD played a key role in supporting CALD communities during 2012 National Year of Reading celebrations by encouraging them to share stories in their first language as well as English to support their family’s reading journey. The Wilbur project was officially launched by special guest Phil Cummings at the 2012 MyLanguage Conference which was held at the State Library of Queensland August 2012.