“…As he swung through the forest towards his family, the Little Gibbon saw a group of villagers who had put out the forest fire. They were returning to the village. Their faces looked tired but happy.
The Little Gibbon then squealed as a sign of gratitude to the humans who had helped protect their forest together.
The villagers waved back excitedly. Because, some of them had never seen a gibbon before and were very happy to see one of them…And, the Little Gibbon had found his song…!”
With that last sentence, the fairy tale about the little gibbon from a children’s story App that I listened to with my two young children on my cell phone, ended. My children clapped as the voice of the narrator closing the story telling session died down. The story about the little gibbon, impressed them as it was slightly different from the usual storytelling session. What made it different?
For the first time, they were listening to a story not through their mother’s voice which is usually the case before their bedtime, but through a storybook app that I just downloaded. The app is called ‘Little Gibbon’ and was launched by Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) in collaboration with Jamies Software on Thursday, 24 June 2021. It was launched as learning material in environmental education for young children. This app can now be downloaded on Android devices.
‘Little Gibbon’ is adapted from a children’s story book titled ‘The Little Gibbon Who Lost His Song’ published by BNF in 2016. The story is written by Carolyn Thompson, a British primate researcher who was inspired by the haze caused by forest fires in Kalimantan in 2015. As we know, fires not only affect humans but also wildlife in their habitat. A Story like this is expected to build awareness from an early age for children about their environment in a way that is fun and easy to understand. The hope is that in the future they will be more aware of the importance of maintaining the balance between protecting and benefitting from the natural world.
The importance of storytelling
Is it possible for parents to be ‘task free’ from storytelling sessions with an app like this? Of course not! It is important that parents accompany their children during storytelling to explain things as the story is told. For example, my eldest son is only five years old. At this age, he has many questions and comments about what he has hears or sees.
“Can we keep the gibbons at home?” he asked in the middle of listening to the Little Gibbon story.
Or, “wow… the tingang bird is so cool, “he expressed when he saw the picture of a tingang (Rhinoceros hornbill) in the illustration of the ‘Little Gibbon’ app. He had never heard or seen these iconic Bornean birds before. This is where the role of parents come in, to explain and to answer their children in easy-to-understand language.
Accompanying children to play or study is a must for parents, and also serves as a great learning for mothers like me. Child-parent bonding is also very important for the growth and development of children. Especially during this pandemic, some working parents actually have more time to spend with their children because of the option of working from home. However, this change in routine is certainly a challenge for parents who have to work but at the same time have to accompany them in play and help their children learn.
There are things parents can do while at home; storytelling can be an option, including new ways of storytelling through apps like the one I have talked about here. This can reduce boredom in children who have spent a lot of time with their gadgets to study. Moreover, storytelling about protected and iconic animals also has added value, such as early recognition of environmental issues and conservation.
Filling the imagination space
While listening to the ‘Little Gibbon’, using easy and simplified language, I try to add information and knowledge related to gibbons that I have gathered from various literature, e.g., Indonesia has the most species of gibbons in the world, or that these animals are a group of small apes that like to live in the wild on trees.
This kind of additional information often makes my eldest son immediately ask a simple question: “Mummy, why do gibbons like to live on trees in forests?”
To answer that, I went back to the literature and explained in simple language that indeed gibbons are animals who depends on trees in forests their entire lives. These animals need a place to live in the form of a dense canopy between trees and feed on fruit and leaves.
Simple but unique information about animals also often attracts children’s interest. For example, it turns out that gibbons indirectly help people who work in the forests, where often they use the sound of gibbons as a reference for time. Gibbon’s voices can be heard for more than three kilometers, and his heard every morning around 5 am and is usually a male voice or a duet between the male and a female, which is called ‘singing’ and then again when the sun is shining bright around 7-9 am after foraging for a morning snack (fruit, tender leaves).
Or, that gibbons form lifelong bonds with their partners, such that If one dies or is not to be found, the other experiences stress leading to illness or death in many cases. Therefore, if there are hunters who manage to get one individual from the gibbon family, it indirectly kills the entire family. Moreover, female gibbons can only give birth to one baby every two to three years.
Simple knowledge like this makes it easier for children to understand the meaning and relevance of stories about animals, just like the story we listened to tonight from the ‘Little Gibbon’ app released by BNF.
I am very grateful for this app because it has built a space for my children’s imagination about this iconic and threatened animal of Borneo. It gives me the opportunity to further add to their imagination space with information and unique or relevant facts. Additionally, it makes me happy to see my two children entertained before their bedtime, eventually falling asleep and to think they are dreaming of meeting a cute little gibbon and helping it find its song, as they heard from the ‘Little Gibbon’ storytelling app tonight.
Verawati Aprillia – Event Organiser, BNF Indonesia