Monday, September 30, 2013

Books from Bellevue

As I walked home last Thursday the postmaster who lives in the main street of Chumey came running out to greet me with  'Madam, another parcel for you!'. This is my favourite type of exciting here!

A large postbag from Bellevue Park State School could mean only one thing - the books have arrived - yippee! I hugged them close to my chest and took them home.

I sat around the table with the boys and Bob's mum and one by one we read them all. I was tingling with amazement at the books that children in grade 7 at my school on the Gold Coast had made. Their teacher Marea suggested early in the year that in addition to her girls writing penpal letters to my UNESCO club students, perhaps her class could write some books for the children here.

It was at the same time as I was starting to feel success with my small bag of precious PM readers - easy to read clear texts graded from absolute beginner to progressively more complex level by level.

The trouble with these books is that they are designed for Australian children - with topics that are familiar to almost all Australian children, so they can draw on their prior knowledge when decoding new words. Doing a jigsaw puzzle, buying a dinosaur toy, going to the beach or the zoo are familiar ideas for Australian children.  For my Bhutanese students though, this added another level of difficulty to the already complex task of reading in English (their third language) - when you haven't an idea what a jigsaw puzzle or a zoo is, it is pretty difficult to make meaning!

So, knowing Marea is an excellent and dedicated teacher, I was sure this project had wings!  I sent her a list of Bhutanese children's names, some familiar topics such as going for a picnic, and the suggestion that children here love stories about fairies, princesses, kings and queens, lists of familiar foods we eat (especially including chillies!) and a rough estimate to aim the books at level 8-12 where I hoped my students would be by now.

She guided her students perfectly along these lines and the end products are phenomenal. They have obviously studied the form of books for children at this level of reading and have produced books that are creative, innovative, visually appealing and perfectly fit the design brief.


Can you imagine the joy for my students when they realise their names feature in the stories?! In my reading books here, children who can read most of the story fluently stumble repeatedly over unfamiliar names like Anya and Jake and Mia, but can breeze past names like Tshomo and Jigme and Norbu as that is what they know.

Tshomo loves that her name features in a few stories.
Class 1 enjoying the books in their library time.

In three sittings we read the entire 15 stories on Friday and we had free library time for the students to touch and read the books alone.

Mrs Andrea reads a story to Class 2.


I so much wish the students from Bellevue could have seen the joy and excitement in the library this week. Not only little students enjoy reading them, but after announcing their arrival on assembly I have had groups of highschool students coming to visit to check them out too. Teachers have popped in to have a look as well and I passed them round the table at the meeting after school Friday.

Students can independently read the books!
Settings such as Chumey and Thimphu surprised the students!


This one was a real favourite - a flip the flap book. Where is Princess Tashi?

Kids are not only inspired by the stories but have been copying the illustrations at any opportunity!

Thank you so much Bellevue Park (as I know this was a project the whole school had a hand in - to fundraise for the postage and production costs). Your books will hopefully bring joy and fascination to the students of Chumey MSS for years to come. I am sure you learned a lot in the process of making them too, and as such it has been a really wonderful cross-cultural exchange.

Every book had a special dedication to the children of Bhutan.

Another feeling I had was that of being inspired by all that we can achieve at schools in Australia - when we strive to work hard and have a curriculum that allows us to be creative and devise unique tasks such as this that open up the world for our students. Our schools encourage creativity, collaboration, individual expression and prepare students for the unknown future. I can't wait to be back in that challenging, professional working environment. See you soon Bellevue Park State School!



  1. What a great project! Things really do seem to be coming together in a flurry at this end of the year. All your dedication and commitment paying off Andrea. Well done you and your colleagues and students at Bellevue Park State School. So glad they were well received

  2. Today we were learning about the geographical features of China. Bhutan appeared on the map as a neighbour- this tiny little dot of a country bedside the enormity of China. A knowing recognition spread across the room along with some smiles. It seemed like the perfect time to share your blog about the books from Bellevue. They listened carefully as I read your words and could no longer contain themselves when they saw the books that they had made here in our classroom being read by students half a world away. It was a strange combination of familiarity and difference. They cheered when their own books appeared in little hands. Such fun. Thank you, Andrea.

    1. I'm so pleased that they've learned something about this little country next to China. It must have been exciting and rewarding for them to see the photos over here. Its the best I can do to show them how loved the books are and how kids are reading them over and over. Now some older students here are inspired to make books for the library too. It was a pleasure to be involved and thank you and the kids for the generosity of sending your work far away.

  3. I have tears in my eyes reading this blog I came upon unintentionally. I am deeply touched with the work you are doing with children and families on both sides of the planet, at the same time. My heart goes out to you and your family and thank you for inspiring me and, I am sure, many others. Much love and many blessings to you.

    1. Thank you so much for those lovely words Wendy. It has been a pleasure to do what we are doing this year, and I guess I write the blog in the hope that it will inspire someone somewhere to step outside their comfort zone and dream big. Have a lovely day!