How much do Australian children know about Australia?
How much do Australian children know about each other?
The question does not seek to criticise teachers, parents or the marvellous array of picture books featuring native animals, but rather begin a conversation about the potential for greater connection between the young people of the Nation, and the way in which this greater connection may in turn develop awareness, insight, critical thinking and empathic engagement with some of the key issues which will define their future.
Chatting with my 5 year old daughter about technology, I began describing to her the way in which people used to communicate by writing letters, sent across vast distances, and usually containing information that was both factual and personal, in that particular blend that is so unique to letter writing.
She remained unconvinced of the necessity of such a thing, so I drew her a quick map of Australia, and quickly filled in various features, loosely based around weather, animals, and buildings. The diversity was immediately apparent, and she had moved from slightly slouched, eyebrow raised scepticism, to a forward leaning posture which showed promise. Imagine, I said, how different each day would be, for all of the children who live in Australia.
Living in small town country village of moderate temperament, she was intrigued indeed by the idea of neighbourhood crocodiles, red soil deserts, penguins and seals and city apartments.
Imagine if you had a friend you could write to, another girl or boy, who could tell you all about their day. And you could tell them, about the river, the chooks and the fact that you only have to step through the back gate and you are at school.
Hmmm she said smiling. And began to prattle away for some time about the many idiosyncrasies that make up our life.
As a Literature graduate and devotee, it is not unusual that I would talk romantically with the children about the tradition of letter writing. They are used to that. But this conversation raised the issue of connection to the country the children live in.
And as a former teacher, I am aware of the place this topic has in the school curriculum, and the space it is given. But I can’t help thinking, wouldn’t it be special if kids told their stories to each other, in their own words. And not just special. Incredibly useful, empowering and positive for their future together on the planet, and as a Nation.
It seems fair to say that adults, for a variety of reasons, can’t always, or don’t always, give the full story when recounting aspects of our National history and Identity. And yes, letters exchanged between children are unlikely to revolutionise the entire Nation’s views on the significant Issues we currently face.
Given the children of today will sooner than we know it, be at the helm themselves, and they are, so capable of open mindedness, tolerance, curiosity, inventiveness and care, wouldn’t it be great if they got to know each other, as children.
Last year I published the first edition of The Lark- Magazine for Children. It is borne of the want to support creative thinking in children, have fun with language, get to know our past, and encourage creative exchange between children based on the enjoyment of artistic expression for its own reward.
It is disappointing, but not surprising to see that creative writing opportunities for children often come in the form of a competition, with the prize being a choice of a play station, mobile phone or tablet. Mild celebrity status is also promised. While technology is integral and invaluable to our lives, it is an uneasy motivator for me, in this instance.
The Lark Magazine hopes to inspire children to recognise the value of their own unique contribution to the Australian, and indeed, Global cultural landscape, and get kids talking, thinking, and problem solving creatively, together.
The Kids Quills Pen Pal Quest, is a call for kids to start writing to people in their lives. In time, it is my hope, that Schools may be paired with a School in a contrasting demographic, for an ongoing exchange. Well, we’ll see.
Check it out if you’d like to find out more.