Rhymes and song great for learn­ing

Whangarei Report - - BOOKS - Why did you choose the song Old Mac­don­ald has a farm for your book?

Pu¯ keko, Kiwi and Hoiho are back in an­other de­light­ful story il­lus­trated and writ­ten by Re­becca Larsen, af­ter their last ad­ven­ture in her de­but best­seller Row, row, row your waka.

In her new book Pu¯ keko, Kiwi and Hoiho ex­plore the for­est.

Sing along with them to the wa­iata and join them as they per­form the ac­tions. Ta¯ ne Mahuta has a for­est is sung in English and Ma¯ ori to the tune of Old Mac­don­ald had a farm.

Re­becca has taken this well-loved chil­dren’s clas­sic song and cre­ated a won­der­ful story that will help chil­dren sound out their vow­els, ac­com­pa­nied by her de­light­ful, lively il­lus­tra­tions.

We asked her some ques­tions:

What in­spired you to write and il­lus­trate your new book?

Our visit to Opotiki and the bush walk which was sim­ply beau­ti­ful, full of bird song — wa­iata. Af­ter writ­ing Row, row, row your waka for my son, then hav­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing pub­lished I have been sent many mes­sages from peo­ple shar­ing how their child adores my book, or plays it on re­peat. I have seen how much the chil­dren en­gage with the book when it is a song with ac­tions, and how this is help­ful in their learn­ing of new words in Ma¯ ori. I be­lieve that teach­ing chil­dren a sec­ond lan­guage at a young age is the best time to do it and it will es­tab­lish in them an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for lan­guage from an early age. Old Mac­don­alds has a farm is a well loved verse, but I wanted to change the set­ting to a beau­ti­ful for­est walk. The idea that our for­est is home to many liv­ing crea­tures and plants is im­por­tant for chil­dren to learn. Our for­est is alive both dur­ing the day­time and at night­time which I ex­plore through im­agery in my book. When our for­est is healthy it is alive with wa­iata and build­ing an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for this at an early age is im­por­tant. When I ask young preschool chil­dren what crea­tures we might find in a for­est, I of­ten hear ‘bears, kan­ga­roos, tigers’, and all sorts of other crea­tures we don’t find here in New Zealand, so the jour­ney through the for­est in my book will give them a glimpse of what we have here in our na­tive forests.

Do you find rhyming books with mu­sic help younger chil­dren learn to read and if so why?

As a par­ent ob­serv­ing my own chil­dren with books, it is al­ways the books with rhyme that they learn to Author Re­becca Larsen re­peat be­fore they can read. Song is a catchy and fun learn­ing tool, and chil­dren es­pe­cially love song when it also has ac­tions to per­form.

Pu¯ keko, Kiwi and Hoiho are the main char­ac­ters in this book and your first book. Is there a rea­son you chose these three char­ac­ters?

I de­cided to keep them as the main char­ac­ters, so I could build up a se­ries that my young fans would come to recog­nise.

Do you and your chil­dren speak te reo?

I am learn­ing te reo through TWOA, how­ever, I am still very much a be­gin­ner. My chil­dren learn a lit­tle through their school. It’s a goal of mine that we will all learn more but they are too young for evening classes just yet. I would love to see Ma¯ ori lan­guage em­braced and rep­re­sented more in our day-to-day prod­ucts, publi­ca­tions and me­dia just as I saw French and English on ev­ery­thing while liv­ing in Canada. Many coun­tries give the op­por­tu­nity of learn­ing a sec­ond lan­guage to their chil­dren, and I fully sup­port that idea here in New Zealand.

What were you first im­pres­sions when you saw Ta¯ ne Mahuta?

It was many years ago now that we vis­ited Tane Mahuta. I re­call that the walk was short, but Tane Mahuta was stun­ning, a very spir­i­tual feel­ing.

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