A Springwood couple has combined their passions and skills to create a children’s book they say will help non-English speakers learn the language.

With no children of their own, John and Anne Maher understand it might seem odd for them to write a children’s book.

But the pair are perfect for the mission.

Both have master’s degrees in English language and have taught students from all over the world.

“We were teachers of English as a second language and during that time we learned about the value of rhyme for learning English rhythm,” Ms Maher said.

“Because, for example, Spanish and Chinese speakers have different rhythm in their language, and a lot of time that make it difficult for them to be understood.

She said helping people to understand the English rhythm made grasping the language “a lot easier”.

“We thought that if we had these stories, and wrote them in a rhythm, English-speaking kids can read them and they’ll like the stories, and people in China and India can read them and they’ll like that it helps with their English.

“I learned Chinese and used kids’ stories to teach myself the rhythm, because they’re simple.

“And for some reason, my husband has a real child-like imagination – he just gets these stories, so we decided to look for an illustrator.”

She said they struggled to find an illustrator to accompany her husband’s stories, so during Covid, Ms Maher picked up a pencil.

“I started fooling around drawing cartoons and thought, well, I could probably do the job,” she said.

Now they’re taking the finished book, The Friendly Forest, around local preschools to show the kids.

“The stories are set in a forest – it’s kind of magical, because it’s got squirrels, but it has mainly got koalas and kangaroos and Australian animals,” Ms Maher said.

“We do a song with the Australian animals and then read the story to the kids, and it has been really positive.”

She said local flora and fauna inspired her artwork.

“I’ve never been an artist, but here you’ve got the animals, the rolling hills, the foliage, it’s so green,” she said.


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