Kiama author helping African children learn a second language

Kiama teacher Philippa Cleall is set to unveil her new picture book, which has been created for readers in both Australia and East Africa.

How to Reach for the Stars, written in English and Swahili, features Little Tembo, a young elephant who is encouraged by her Grandma Bibi to “reach for the stars”.

Little Tembo wonders what this really means and goes on a journey of discovery to find out.

The language translation of this story was a collaborative project between the author and two Tanzanian primary schools, the School of St Jude and Tumaini Primary School in Arusha.

Philippa first visited Tanzania to work voluntarily 20 years ago, but was inspired to create this cross-cultural picture book after deciding to travel back with her 18 year old daughter Abeni and two Jamberoo friends to work voluntarily in a Tanzanian school in January 2019.

“When I knew I was going back to work in Africa I did not want to return empty handed,” she said. 

“Students in Tanzania do not have many bilingual resources. These can be important for them, as young children in Tanzanian schools need to learn English to continue successfully into secondary education.

“Little Tembo’s story shares the important message about children continuing with education and hopefully will inspire its readers to dream about future goals they can achieve.”

Philippa will take class sets of the book to donate to schools and education programs in the Arusha region of Tanzania. All sales of the book in Australia will assist with printing copies of the book for Tanzanian donations.

How to Reach for the Stars has been written for preschool to lower primary age readers. Free online PDF teacher’s notes are available on the author’s website.

How to Reach for the Stars will be available in local bookstores from Saturday, October 20.

About the author

Philippa Cleall has lived in the Kiama local area for the past 17 years with her family. This is her fourth children’s picture book.

Cleall has worked for more than a decade with both children and books locally as a primary teacher librarian.

Now she spends her days writing, illustrating, casual teaching and working towards greater community inclusion for young people living with challenges.