Two Rotorua women have created a resource for babies and young children which celebrates three languages of New Zealand.

Jenny Chapman and Molly Chattell have written Korero Mai - Speak To Me incorporating 14 first words frequently used by children, such as mum, dog and bed in te reo Maori, English and New Zealand sign language.

The idea came to Mrs Chapman when she started using sign language, as an experiment, with her 4-month-old daughter Hope.

"I was at home with her and decided to do it properly . . . she started signing back at 8 or 9 months. My husband and I were blown away.


"Being able to sign meant Hope was able to tell us what she wanted, and was less frustrated and more confident."

Moving from the South Island to Rotorua "where Maori culture is so rich, so obvious and so accessible to everybody" was life-changing, said Mrs Chapman.

"We wanted to break down barriers and racism and create unity. You access culture through language."

Koreko Mai celebrates the three official languages of New Zealand. Photo/Supplied
Koreko Mai celebrates the three official languages of New Zealand. Photo/Supplied

She said she shared her idea with Mrs Chattell who was enthusiastic to help.

Mrs Chattell said she did sign language "from day dot" with her 10-month-old son Jackson.

"It meant I had the tools to communicate with him. When he was 4 months old he signed 'all done', it was really cool."

The duo worked with New Zealand Sign Language online to select commonly used signs "little hands could use".

The board book, a type of book printed on thick cardboard, was chosen as Mrs Chapman said a text book could put people off.

"With the board book kids can't rip the pages and it floats around the house and anyone can pick it up and use it. It's user-friendly."

Mrs Chattell said she did the illustrations on PowerPoint and set it up so each language got the "same amount of real estate on the page".

Following a tough journey to self-publish, the pair ended up going to a publisher in China and have printed 500 copies of the book.

"It's really exciting to hold it in your hands. It's such a cool tool for mums, dads and their babies, and an opportunity for parents to talk with their children," Mrs Chattell said.

Korero Mai - Speak To Me is available from