Awards recognition for Little J & Big Cuz

Animated TV program Little J & Big Cuz, which seeks to support the successful transition from home to school for Indigenous children and their families, has been recognised at the 2018 Logie Awards.

The groundbreaking series won the Logie for ‘Most outstanding children's program'. The recognition follows more than eight years of work to bring the concept to Australian screens, Research Developments [rd] reports.

Research shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are twice as likely to be identified as developmentally vulnerable, and only half as likely to access important early years education. Little J & Big Cuz models the day-to-day running of an early primary classroom and follows the adventures of the two main characters, their nanna and lovable dog, and their teacher Miss Chen. Storylines for each of the 13 episodes are aligned with the Australian Early Years Learning Framework and accompanied by free resources for educators.

The animated series – which premiered on NITV in early 2017 and has also been aired on the ABC – is part of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) School Readiness Initiative. Lisa Norris, Director of the ACER Foundation, conceived the idea for Little J & Big Cuz and worked with project partner Ned Lander Media to turn it into a reality.

‘The best way I could describe this project is as a beautiful challenge,' Norris told [rd], adding ‘Fortunately for us, we found partners – all experts in their respective fields who brought a range of unique skills and talents – as passionate about the project as everyone at ACER.' SNAICC, NITV, Screen Australia, Screen Tasmania, Film Victoria, Dusseldorp Forum and Lotterywest all signed up.

‘The series is just one component of a much bigger whole, with the resources being equally challenging to produce, mainly because of their sheer volume,' Norris explained. ‘We all felt overwhelmed at times but the team were passionate and produced educational content that is rich and beautiful – and we are very proud of what everyone involved has achieved.'

Season one has also been revoiced and screened in seven languages (Pitjantjara, Arrernte, Palaw kani, Yawuru, Walmajarri, Djambarrpuyngu and English). Season two is now in production.

Impact in the classroom

There's strong evidence that educational TV programs can help improve school readiness by building literacy and numeracy skills, self-esteem and an understanding of school expectations.

After the series aired, a Grade 1 and 2 teacher wrote to Norris to let her know how showing the program in class has benefited her students. ‘We have used [the show] to unpack social problems, to explain complicated emotions, to learn about safety and to learn of Aboriginal peoples' perspectives and culture. Thanks for giving me a daily 11 minutes of calm to recalibrate, thanks for giving them an authentic identity and narrative to look to, and thanks for giving us a means of exploring our best selves.'

Dusseldorp Forum is evaluating the impact of series one of Little J & Big Cuz on children, schools and communities, and its report is expected later this year.

Read the full article: From inspiration to award win: Little J & Big Cuz's journey to the Logies published in ACER's Research Developments to find out more about the program, resources and the team behind the project.

Teacher runs a regular blog by Miss Chen where she shares some of the F-2 resources she's been using in her classroom.