The Oo in Uluru, by Melbourne author Judith Barker, has won the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia book awards for the 5-8 years category. This book is a fun Australian themed phoneme story that teaches young readers about the long vowel Oo and where they can find it in different words. Set in the Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park, a young girl explores the spectacular wildlife and nature of the Anangu. Beautifully illustrated by Janie Frith, the rich colours and vibrant use of multi-media enhance the magical experience of Uluru. Barker has written a wonderful book highlighting our indigenous culture and the local travel economy, with fantastic illustrations of an indigenous man playing the didgeridoo and the local wildlife.

Barker attributes Dr Seuss’ fantastical tales about faraway places to her love of writing children’s picture books. She’s an English teacher, a voracious reader, and a modern wordsmith. After teaching phonemic awareness to children in Europe, the Middle East, India and China, Judith saw a growing need to support diversity in schools. The children would recall the sounds and manipulate the letters to make different words, but while attempting to master the many vagaries of spelling––it became more of a challenge.

While researching a master in phonology, Barker began to use visual language in stories, by colouring the different phonemes, so that children could make a holistic sense of the various spelling patterns. The repetition of the sounds and the coloured letters particularly seemed to fully resonate in Dr Seuss’ fun and whimsical stories. Barker has her own website with interactive activities, spelling worksheets and other resources that are designed to accompany the visual language highlighted in the book. The website uses a simple, holistic and step-by-step approach so that anyone can teach young readers.

After returning to Melbourne for the launch of her first children’s book The Oo in Uluru, Barker has since won the 2019 Speech Pathology Children’s Book of the Year. Currently, Barker is writing a series of books about phonemes which will be published by Woodslane Press next year. When Barker is not writing children’s stories or plays, she teaches music therapy and meditation. She lives in Melbourne with her family and adorable Australian terriers, Nellie and Dusty.

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