Becoming a children’s author at the age of nine is impressive enough on its own, but Tyra Sioni, a Grade 4 student at the Australian International School, hasn’t stopped at this accomplishment. Following the launch of her book, The Visible Girls (which won gold in the Voices of Future Generation’s Children’s Book Series), the bright tween has added the title of Children’s Ambassador to the United Nations to her cap!
To celebrate her award-winning book, Tyra was invited to attend the VoFG Children’s Summit in New York where she helped finalise a statement on the Declaration of Children and the World’s Sustainable Development Goals. Her book, which is based in her birth country of Papua New Guinea and focuses on discrimination towards women, was also launched at the summit, where she gave a short speech on the issues highlighted in the story.
Here, Tyra talks about her inspiration for the book, the influences in her life and eating cheese pizzas in New York. “You can write a story too and maybe go to New York one day. However, you have to write about an important issue that can make a difference to people in the world,” she says. Hear, hear, Tyra!
Q: Congratulations on your achievement. Please tell us about your book.
A: My book is based in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where I was born and it’s about discrimination against women. The main character is a girl called Sine. When Sine and her imaginary friend Kaimon see a man shouting at a woman, they start a group to fight such issues. Their motto is ‘Women Forever, Girls Together’. The Prime Minister hears of their efforts and praises them. Even though Kaimon is imaginary, she becomes more visible as the group becomes more recognised.
Q: Why did you decide to enter the competition?
A: Well, one of my father’s friends Melinda Beier is a Good Will Ambassador to the UN for the Pacific Islands. She told him about the book competition and I decided to participate. I researched the problems in PNG and decided that discrimination would be a good topic to focus on.
Q: What does the word discrimination mean to you, as a 9-year-old?
A: It means when you make fun of someone who is not like you. You tease them and are not very nice to them.
Q: What influences were important when you were writing the book?
A: My father helped me with my research. He told me I should use island radio instead of television in the story because that’s what people in PNG listen to. The book is a mix between reality and fiction. The first name I chose for the main character meant possum in the local PNG language. My father suggested I change that because it might be strange to call the main character possum!
Q: What other influences are there in your life?
A: I’ve been at the Australian International School for a year now and it’s a great place. I love library time because I love to read. I love the Series of Unfortunate Events. I have always loved reading but now writing is my newfound hobby. My co-curricular activity in the AIS Writing Club gives me a chance to write short stories, but I never thought I could write an entire book! I feel proud of what I created and I am excited to write more at home and at school. AIS focuses on opportunities and tries to push you to your limits, which helps me to achieve more.
Q: Tell us about your experience in New York.
A: I was so nervous at the airport and wanted to back out of the trip. It’s a whole day on an airplane and so boring. But my whole class was behind me. New York was fun but I was so surprised to see so many homeless people, all sleeping on the road and right next to the UN building. My favourite thing in New York was the food: the cheese pizza is awesome and each piece was so huge!
For budding literacy experts like Tyra, AIS offers an Accelerated Literacy Program starting from age two. This progresses into a holistic, rigorous Elementary literacy program under the International Baccalaureate and Australian curriculum. The outcomes are impressive – AIS’s 2015 NAPLAN results (that’s the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) showed that they have 24 percent more top performing writing students than the New South Wales state average! Find out more by joining AIS at an Open House on 2 December 2015. Register over at www.ais.com.sg or call +65 6653 2958.
Australian International School, 1 Lorong Chuan, Singapore, 556818
Australian International School Pte Ltd is registered by the Council for Private Education. CPE Registration Number 199204405H. Period of Registration: 6 July 2015 to 5 July 2019.