National | Books

First Rotuman language children's book published

The Rotuma language, although rare and endangered, is on the brink of hopeful revival, with efforts underway to create captivating children's literature for its speakers.

The first children's book in the Rotuma language has just been published thanks to a Creative New Zealand award.

Darlene Inia, who helped produce the book, says children across New Zealand can now learn about her country and language.

"We've launched our book today, Rotuma 'Otou Hanua Pumue, which is a special project for our young people and it's something for them to be proud of.

"Not only for us here in Aotearoa but also in Rotuma because now Rotuma is everywhere in Aotearoa," she says.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recently classified the language as vulnerable due to its estimated 3,000 fluent speakers worldwide.

Rotuman children involved

The book's editor David Riley says it has been written for the people by the people.

“It’s the first book we know of that’s written by Rotuman children for Rotuman children. It’s for other children to read as well. The children worked with their parents and their grandparents, to tell the stories together.

Rotuman language being revived.

The children got their information from their own elders, supplied photos and they chose which ones they wanted in the book,” he says.

Rotuma Island is a Fiji dependency, with 981 Rotumans living in Aotearoa based on the latest census.

Inia, whose family is featured in the historical book, believes this book will hopefully serve as an encouragement for people to visit Rotuma.

The first of many?

"It is an untouched paradise, it's a beautiful place, and we pride ourselves on that because we've managed to retain and sustain that because tourism has not set into Rotuma.

We are very blessed and fortunate in that sense with the fact that we can call Rotuma our home," she says.

Books on Rotuman culture for children were previously unavailable.

Riley, who takes great pride in being from South Auckland, hopes this book will be just one of many to come in the future.

“More books, definitely more and I know these kids can do it. I know they’ve got lots of ideas and so do their parents.

I encouraged one of their parents who’s an artist. Hopefully, I"m going to help her create a book of Rotuman legends for children and she will write along with her daughter,” he says.

The book is available in all Auckland Council libraries and can also be purchased via the Reading Warrior website.