News, Events and Culture

Sharing stories from our children in their first voice

Tuesday September 26 2017

When English is your second language it can be a challenge for young school students. For Barbara Drake, an ESOL tutor at Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School, the First Voice project has allowed her students to share stories in their first language.

In May, Palmerston North City Library hosted a bilingual and bicultural writing workshop for 53 PNINS students who between them spoke 22 languages.

Volunteer mentors from many cultures coordinated by the Manawatū Multicultural Centre helped the students with writing and grammar. This year’s theme was ‘a famous person’.

Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) Multicultural Services Coordinator Jeremie Corroenne organised the writing workshop. 

“Many of the students speak their first language fluently, as it may be used at home,” he says. “However, as they don’t get to write in their first language often, due to them writing in English at school, they can lose touch with this skill. This is what the First Voice project is all about – keeping them in touch with the written form of their first language.”

After the workshop, the children worked on their stories back at school. They were collected along with a profile of each student, and with assistance from Council, made into a coloured bound book. This is the tenth year the First Voice project has been run.

A launch of the First Voice book and a digital version is being held this Friday. Attending the launch will be the students, their families, and the community mentors who worked with the children, to acknowledge and celebrate their cultures, languages and life stories. There will also be some short cultural performances.