‘Reading Tracks’ learn-to-read series: a cultural journey


reading tracks margaret james

The Reading Tracks series by author Margaret James includes fifteen books suitable for Indigenous and non-Indigenous readers. Margaret wanted to provide literacy support for Indigenous children that was culturally relevant to them. She also aimed to teach non-Indigenous children about the cultures and food gathering practices of Australian First Peoples, such as tracking and hunting emus, perenties, kangaroos, echidnas, goannas and more.

Book One introduces the reader to nine words, which gradually progresses to 154 words by Book Fifteen. Then, the second series includes seven storybooks written in more advanced text. Those are for more fluent readers wanting to learn about Indigenous Australian culture.

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Margaret James takes the reader on a cultural journey through beautiful Australian landscapes. The stories visit our central deserts as well as the northern rivers, oceans and islands. The reader learns about traditional food-gathering from the First Australians. These include fishing for barramundi; tracking and hunting for emus, kangaroos, echidnas and perenties. One of the books is about the first Alice Springs Camel Cup. Luritja/Arranda man and camel musterer, Vincent Forrester tells the amusing story.

Each storybook also includes its own activity book. That invaluable adjunct allows readers to consolidate their learning independently through interactive activities including sounds and letters, fun comprehension questions, word searches, crosswords, mazes, colour by numbers, grammar, art and culture. These books further enhance student engagement in the series and lead to a range of topics for discussion in the classroom tying in with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priorities, as well as exploring where our own food comes from.

Margaret James

reading tracks margaret james

Margaret James M.Ed (TESOL), is an NT Australian of the Year finalist and a QUT Faculty of Education outstanding alumni. The Courier-Mail also listed her in their 50 Brightest and Best. Following a fulfilling and varied career in several countries, Margaret moved into Indigenous Education in Australia. The paucity of engaging, early-reading material for EALD learners and her relationship with Elders of several Australian Nations, led her to develop several linguistically and culturally appropriate books and resources in English and several Aboriginal languages (Honey Ant Reader series).

While visiting schools and communities in order to deliver Professional Development for the Honey Ant Readers, Margaret became increasingly aware of the similar need for engaging, early-reading material for older learners as well, which eventually became the Reading Tracks series.

She worked closely with Elders, students and twelve illustrators to develop linguistically and culturally appropriate learn-to-read storybooks for older readers. However, these books can be enjoyed by non-Indigenous readers equally. Margaret’s research included trips to the desert and the coast with Elders and children, where they would hunt and prepare the food they caught. The Elders edited the books. The students then gave feedback after reading the books, to ensure accuracy.

The Reading Tracks range is available to purchase from Woodslane.


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