A Whanganui woman has published a children's book called 'Row Row Row Your Waka' in a bid to teach her children te reo Maori. Mother-of-two Rebecca Larsen, who attended Putiki kindergarten and St Marcellin School, said that after living in Canada for eight years she had realised the importance of learning an additional language. "Living in Canada opened my eyes ... learning another language was prioritised there as well as other countries we visited," she said. "I got the drive to educate my children and that's how the book started."
Having completed a design degree in Wellington, Ms Larsen has been working in creative design for 15 years. Ms Larsen's book takes a New Zealand spin on the classic children's tale Row Your Boat. Written in both English and te reo, the book features three national flightless birds, a pukeko, a kiwi and a hoiho, rowing through Aotearoa waters. A CD, put together by Ms Larsen's brother and brother-in-law, comes with the book to encourage active engagement - it plays Row Your Boat in Maori.
"My children, being boys, love the dramatic action of doing the haka and a pukana. Now my five-year-old insists on learning the whole song off by heart in just Maori. It's great!"
Ms Larsen said she intentionally used crayon for the illustrations to speak to the children. "I want the kids to take the book and be able to draw the pictures themselves rather than being a passive reader."
Growing up she only learnt the basics of the Maori language but since publishing the book she has enrolled in classes to learn properly.
Now living in Papamoa with her two boys, aged 3 and 5, she is working on her second book with a similar language theme.
~ Emma Russell
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