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reluctant-reader

Positive Reading Experiences

I had a most delightful phone conversation recently with a reading buddy. Olivia was referred to the Reading Buddies Program via Volunteering Western Victoria and attended a morning tea and information/training session to find out what was involved in being a reading buddy. She chose the school in which she would like to volunteer and we visited for an orientation session and arranged a time when she could regularly visit to listen to children read.

After her first reading buddies’ session, Olivia phoned to tell me about her ‘first day on the job’. She was reading with children in a prep class and found the children to be absolutely delightful. One little reluctant reader announced that she didn’t like reading and didn’t want to read. Olivia was able to call upon some of the ‘tips for reading with children’ that were covered in the Reading Buddies training session.

She began to engage the student by looking at and talking about the pictures in the book. This progressed to finding words or letters on the pages that the student could recognise and ended up with the student, somewhat hesitantly, reading her reader with her new reading buddy. At the end of the session, the reluctant little reader left with a smile and Olivia left with a great sense of satisfaction and delight and very much looking forward to the next session together.

I suspect that one of the reasons why some children struggle with reading or don’t like reading is because they have not experienced the delight of that special one-on-one time with an adult where they engage in the wonderful world of stories.  Reading to young children is not simply an exercise in hearing and understanding words, it can be a deeply caring and bonding experience between the adult and the child. With such a positive experience generated around a book, reading becomes a delightful experience and hopefully instils a love of reading in the child.

Many children miss out on this special reading time with an adult.  This is one of the reasons why we have a Reading Buddies Program in schools. It gives those reluctant little readers a positive experience with an adult where books are no longer a threat but a source of enjoyment.

We have never yet had too many Reading Buddies in our local schools. If you or anyone you know would like to share your love of reading with a child in a local primary school, please contact us. We are looking for more reading buddies for the beginning of the 2020 school year, so now is the time to start thinking about whether you could spare an hour a week to make a difference in a young person’s life.

Please contact us at The WSMLLEN Office:
info@llen.com.au  Phone 03 5381 0122
Or you can register your expression of interest online at: http://www.llen.com.au/reading-buddies/

Sarah Kennedy

Head-start to a Career

Getting a head-start into a career is one of the benefits for students who undertake a Vocational Education and Training (VET) course while completing their secondary studies. VET courses are available to students in years 10–12 and can contribute to the student’s VCAL Certificate or VET Certificate.  Some courses also contribute to a VCE ATAR score. This means that students can complete their secondary schooling with a Certificate 1,2 or (sometimes 3) qualification and this is a great head-start into a career.

Students then have options to take on apprenticeships, traineeships, further study or go into the workforce, and in many cases, this qualification gives a student an advantage in securing a position in their chosen career.

Mackenzie Marra, from Horsham College, is a set on becoming a chef when he leaves school and is one of many young people wanting a career in the kitchen.  He is certainly giving himself the best possible start by completing VET Kitchen Operations as part of his senior schooling.  In this course, Mackenzie is learning skills that will be a valuable asset to any business in the hospitality industry.  With safe food-handling skills, and experience cooking in an industry-standard kitchen for large groups and organisations, Mackenzie will finish his course already having worked in a fast-paced, work environment.

Sarah Kennedy from Edenhope College knew before she started her VET Kitchen Operations course that she liked cooking.  Completing this course has just confirmed her love of it.  She always thought music would be her destiny, but has decided hospitality might be her career pathway with music on the side. Kitchen Operations teaches students a wide variety of skills and techniques.  Learning to cook all sorts of styles and to different dietary requirements is all part of the fun.  These life skills will not be wasted on anyone who decides to complete the course, in fact, Sarah would highly recommend completing VET Kitchen Operations regardless of your chosen vocation.  These skills will be useful in all aspects of your life.

Pictured: Sarah Kennedy, Edenhope College

Shubham_World Health Day_12_13_03

Volunteering is Good for Your Health

A quick Google search can find numerous articles and scientific studies that indicate that volunteering is good for our health. This is more particularly so for people over the age of 50.

Some of the health benefits of volunteering include:

Lower Blood Pressure
A study from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA found that adults over 50 who volunteered regularly were less likely to have problems with high blood pressure than non-volunteers. One of the researchers concluded that volunteering might increase the physical activity in people who would otherwise be inactive and this, in turn, could reduce stress and improve heart health. 

Better Sleep
The Stony Brook University School of Medicine surveyed more than 4,500 Americans and found that volunteering had an impact on sleep. The survey indicated that volunteers have less trouble sleeping, less anxiety and better friendships and social networks.

Longer life
A study from the University of Michigan looked at the mortality rates of altruistic volunteers and found that those who volunteered regularly had a lower mortality rate than non-volunteers and those who volunteer for self-interest reasons.

Helpers High
Studies have shown that those who volunteer have a similar physical experience to people who exercise vigorously or meditate. This is because the body releases ‘feel-good’ endorphins during positive social contact with others. There was a ‘catch’ associated with achieving this ‘high’. To gain the benefits, the volunteers needed to be involved in direct contact with other people and must be altruistic, without a selfish motivator, like money, being involved.

Numerous articles suggest there are even more benefits to be gained from volunteering which contribute to better health and wellbeing.  Some of these include:

  • Increased levels of physical activity
  • Increased satisfaction and optimism
  • A greater sense of purpose
  • A more positive outlook on life
  • Increased social connection
  • Increased cognitive function
  • Decreased levels of depression and anxiety.

Some of these studies also pointed out that, the health benefits of volunteering were achieved by volunteering for 200 hours per year, (4 hours per week).
Imagine what a difference it would make in our world if everyone over 50 volunteered for 4 hours a week! Not only would our society benefit from the skills and experience being injected into our communities but the volunteers themselves would experience improved health, reducing the burden on our medical system.

People who volunteer do so for a number of reasons. The primary reason is often that they want to make a difference or help others, but it is also OK to gain some benefits for ourselves. Sometimes the satisfaction of knowing that we are helping someone provides sufficient benefit in itself. The additional benefits of volunteering then become an added bonus.

At Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN we have volunteering opportunities that have the potential to improve the health of our volunteers:

  • Our Reading Buddies program provides the opportunity for volunteers to listen to children read, on-on-one for an hour a day, one or more mornings a week in a local school.
  • Our MATES Mentoring Program matches adult volunteers with young people in local schools. Mentors catch up with their mentee for one hour a fortnight for a whole year. This small amount of time (just 24 hours over a whole year) can make an enormous difference in the life of a young person.

Whether you are over 50 or under, we would love to hear from you if you would like to make a difference in a young person’s life.

See more on our reading Buddies Page and our MATES Mentoring Page

fresh ice cream

The Ice-cream Shop

A recent conversation and pretend-play session with my three-year-old granddaughter centred around an ice-cream shop. Annie is a little chatterbox and loves ‘pretend play’.  She will spend hours occupying herself creating conversations between her toys and loves to engage any willing members of the family in her imaginative world.

“Would you like to come to my ice-cream shop, Grandma?” I didn’t need a second invitation to spend some quality time with this special little person. I was offered a range of ice-cream flavours. The conversation went like this: “You could have mango, strawberry, blueberry, chocolate, vanilla, pineapple, or plumb.”
I asked, “Do you have ginger ice-cream? Ginger ice-cream is my favourite.”
“Well, no Grandma, I don’t have ginger ice-cream but I could ask my cook to make some.”

While the cook was making the ginger ice-cream, Annie announced that she would sing to me so, with a little toy accordion, she squeezed out a tune and made up a song about Grandma coming to her ice-cream shop. At the conclusion of the performance and after a round of applause from a delighted grandma, she announced, “I’ll go and see if the cook has finished making your ice-cream now, Grandma.” She promptly returned with my special order of ginger ice-cream. I licked my ice-cream with great approval. “This is the most delicious ice-cream I have ever tasted. How do you make such beautiful ice-cream?”

To my surprise, this three-year-old replied, “The ingredients are sugar, eggs, cream, vanilla and ginger and I mix them. I don’t cook them, I just mix them.” I was impressed on three counts, firstly that she knew the word ‘ingredients’, secondly that she could list a range of ingredients that were entirely appropriate to make ice-cream and thirdly that she knew that ice-cream didn’t need to be cooked. Our conversation continued, “Do you think your cook could make me another ginger ice-cream?”

“Well no, Grandma, he can’t.” “Why not,” I asked.  ‘Well he died,” was the totally unexpected reply. “Oh dear,” I said. “That is terrible. Why did he die?” “Well Grandma, he just didn’t eat healthy food.”

The pretend play continued for over an hour with many servings of ice-cream, bad batches of ice-cream that had to be thrown out, a visit to the ice-cream shop by Grandpa and endless chatter.

I was enthralled by this pretend play experience and amazed by the imagination, creativity, knowledge and language skills of a three-year-old to be able to engage in such a detailed conversation. By the age of three, this little one has mastered complex sentence construction and can correctly use nouns (singular and plural), pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs in various tenses, along with clauses joined by conjunctions in a sequence.

Not only is all of this grammar in place, but there is also an understanding of the importance of eating healthy food and ingredients to make ice-cream! I wonder what else is being stored in that little mind.

In visiting schools in our local region, we have heard that some schools are introducing ‘pretend play’ into the prep classrooms because, increasingly, children are coming to school with limited experience of pretend play. I wonder if its absence is having an adverse effect on our children. Pretend play is a vital part of language development for young children.  In our increasingly fast-paced society and with the proliferation of electronic devices, perhaps we are not finding as much time to spend on the simple things like talking, reading and pretending with our children.

…and I am becoming increasingly aware of the valuable contribution grandparents can make in the lives of young children. While parents are extremely busy with careers and the ever-increasing need to work more, the one thing that many grandparents have, especially those who have retired, is time. I am convinced that the best inheritance I can leave to my children, is to invest time in my grandchildren.

Mandy Zania

Mandy and Zarnia – Their Story

Sam caught up with Mandy and Zarnia to discuss their experience with the MATES Program at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College. See below a video of their story and transcript.

What is the MATES program and what have you got out of it?
M: The MATES mentoring program to me was an opportunity to help a younger person within my community and I was introduced to Zarnia and I feel like her big sister now and hopefully that’s how she feels too.
Z: MATES Mentoring to me is an opportunity I get to communicate with someone in the community and open up to someone else that’s not just family and friends. I get to talk to someone else.
M: and get a different perspective

Why did you sign up?
M: It was introduced to me through a friend of mine, she asked if I would be interested in doing it, I do a lot of other volunteering within the community. When she said it was helping a young person up at the high school I thought I could get into that. I have a lot of compassion and understanding to share and thought this was a good way to do it.

Do you think the program has made an impact? Have you noticed any changes?
Z: It’s impacted me. It’s made high school a lot easier because I can talk to Mandy for help and guidance and made me more sociable and more comfortable around people and more able to be myself.
M: I feel like I’ve given Zarnia the tools to help her cope with a lot more other things now. Rather than hide, she can now confront people and get her point of view across without it being done in a nasty way. She’s a lot more confident than when I first met her. I think it’s done both of us good.

How often to you catch up? What kind of things do you do together?
M: On average, it’s once a fortnight, sometimes weekly depending on special occasions for example: Zarnia’s birthday we caught up twice in that one week for her birthday and then our normal visit. We do cooking, we play games, I take Zarnia out and we go and have a coffee and a cake down at the bakery. We’re planning a trip to Aradale and J-Ward in Ararat because it’s a place Zarnia wants to visit.
Z: It’s on my bucket list. We do a lot of cooking and that’s one of my favourite things, amongst the many others.

Why do you think mentoring is important?
M: I think in this day and age where social media can be so critical, it’s good to have a positive influence coming through to show you that there are nice people out there, they’re not all nasty, horrible people that just want to keep putting you down. There are people that will encourage and help and I think the MATES Mentoring Program shows that not just Zarnia, but people around Zarnia, just how much she’s improved and then might want to get involved in the program themselves.

How would you rate the experience?
Z: 10/10
M: Ditto

What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a mentor?
Z: Go for it, it’s an amazing opportunity you can have.

What was it like when you first met?
M: I think Zarnia has grown in her confidence exceptionally, she can talk to me now. Initially, at a few of our first little meetings, I could tell that something had happened and she would say “I don’t want to talk about it” and I would wait five minutes and I would go, “Zarnia, that’s what I’m here for, you have to unload.” So she ended up getting into that habit of “yes, Mandy’s here, I can just tell her everything that’s happened” and knowing that I keep all of that in confidence for her is an added bonus. It helps both of us, it helps her unload and helps me understand what she’s going through.

Would you recommend the program?
M: Most definitely. I’ve recommended the program to people in the community.

 

 

meerkat-buddies

Reading Buddies — It’s simple

How to become a reading buddy in three simple steps. The process is really simple and you will be supported all the way.

Reading Buddies are volunteers who listen to children read, one-on-one on a regular basis at the child’s school. The aim is to foster a love of reading and assist children to develop their reading skills.

Step 1 – Contact us

The first step in volunteering to be a reading buddy is to contact Lorraine at the LLEN office during business hours. The simplest way is to phone 03 5381 0122.
If you can’t phone during business hours, you can lodge an expression of interest online via our website at http://www.llen.com.au/reading-buddies/
Lorraine will respond either by phone or email to arrange a time to catch up in-person (for about half an hour) at the LLEN office.

Step 2 – Meet with us

During this catch-up, you can discuss when, where and why you would like to be a reading buddy and run through some tips for reading with children.
If you don’t already have a Working with Children Check, Lorraine can assist you to apply.

Step 3 – Visit the school

After you meet with Lorraine, she will make arrangements for you to visit the school where you have chosen to volunteer. She will take you to the school or meet you at the school, introduce you to the school staff and run through an orientation session to show you where to go and what to do.
This is where you arrange a time which suits both you and the school for your regular visits.

(Steps 2 and 3 may be able to be completed in one session. This will depend on which school you choose.)

That’s all it takes!

Once you have gone through these three steps, you simply visit the school at your arranged time each week and enjoy the delights of engaging with children as you listen to them read!

spaghetti

Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti!

My son was preparing lunch for my grandchildren, while their mother was away for the day. He was catering for an 18-month old, a three-year old and four-year old.  He announced, “What do you want for lunch today?” and then proceeded to list the options which included some left-overs from the day before and some quick-and-easy options. The list was something like, “There is chicken and corn soup, some salad and ham, or you could have a wrap or a peanut butter sandwich or spaghetti on toast and there are bananas, apples and mandarins in the fruit bowl.”

I was satisfied that, in the absence of their health-conscious mother, this was a reasonable menu that provided some healthy eating options from a range of food groups.

The three-year-old and four-year-old were well able to articulate what they wanted and what they didn’t want. The three-year-old clearly stated, “I don’t like chicken and corn soup. I want ham and salad in a wrap,” while the four-year-old chorused, “Spahgetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti! I want Spaghetti on toast!”

The 18-month old, whose vocabulary consisted of only a few words such as ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’ and ‘no’, was unable to verbalise his menu preference. He had only been walking for about four months, but suddenly and silently disappeared at lightning speed through the kitchen and into the pantry. He emerged within a few seconds carrying a can of spaghetti, making it quite clear what he wanted for lunch. Although he was unable to speak, he had a clear grasp of the conversation and knew exactly what was being discussed – spaghetti was on the menu for lunch and that was what he wanted. He was also well aware that the spaghetti came in cans and where it was stored in the pantry.

This simple little action of a toddler running into the pantry and coming out with a can of spaghetti, demonstrated clearly what Let’s Read program advocates.  Reading (and speaking) to your children from birth is vital for the development of their language. Long before children can speak, they are listening, learning words and developing their vocabulary.  It stands to reason, that the more words they hear, the more words they will learn and understand. There are numerous ways to increase the number of words our babies and toddlers hear. This can be done by constantly talking and describing what you are doing during the day, making a running commentary of the mundane activities of the day, singing songs to your children and reading stories. Exposure to language in the early years is a great investment in a child’s education and increases their readiness for school.

My 18-month old grandson was given his menu preference for lunch that day, and unsurprisingly, because he was able to choose what he wanted, devoured a generous helping of spaghetti while I sat back and contemplated the wonderful capacity of the human brain and the importance of generous helpings of exposure to language to build healthy young minds.

Book Donation

Literacy Boost

Prize money received by Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN will go towards two literacy programs delivered across the Wimmera.  The LLEN was awarded the Community Group of the Year in the 2018 Regional Achievement and Community Awards.  This state-wide award came with $2000 prizemoney sponsored by the Bank of Melbourne.

The prize money will be targeted to buy more books and resources for the Let’s Read program and the Read to Me program. The Horsham branch of the Bank of Melbourne is also donating a series of children’s books for use in these valuable programs.  This support from the Bank of Melbourne will support the development and education of our region’s children.

Let’s Read is delivered by a partnership in each of the Hindmarsh, Horsham, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack shires.  The program delivers support, books, read-aloud DVDs and resources to families at four different age points.  Families receive the resources and support for their babies at 4 months, 12 months, 18 months and 3½ years from Maternal and Child Health Nurses during the child’s health check.

Let’s Read was developed by the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Smith Family have partnered with Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN and local partners to deliver the program across the Wimmera.

The money will also be used to establish the Read to Me program across the Wimmera.  Read to Me was developed by Raising Literacy Australia and is currently delivered across South Australia.  Read to Me will provide children in out-of-home care with their own start-up library of 10 picture and board books. Children then receive an additional 3 books every 3 months to add to their collection up until they reach 6 years of age.

Investing in the early years has a profound impact on a child’s future and, through the Read to Me project, Raising Literacy Australia and Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN strive to use the power of stories and reading to help children in out-of-home care to reach their full potential.

Let’s Read and Read to Me are early years literacy programs aimed at promoting the importance of reading with young children from birth. Sharing stories, rhymes and songs daily to your children, from birth, establishes a strong language and literacy foundation which ensures that children are ready to learn when they start school.  Research has shown that reading regularly to your children increases their IQ.

We are fortunate to receive such strong support from our business community and local community organisations.  Kids who read succeed and the delivery of these important programs only occurs through the generous support we receive from our partners.

VETandSWL

VET and SWL

VET and SWL – Hands-on training for our youth that helps keep our talented young people local. 

VET (Vocational Education and Training), provides accredited training in a range of industries including trades, retail, health, hospitality and services.  Schools in our region run a VET component to their curriculum which enables students to gain accredited training in an area of their interest while still at school.  This training is handson and industry specific.  The skills developed in a VET course can assist young people to find employment when they have completed their schooling.   

As the training is primarily hands-on, VET provides students with an alternative way of learning.  This type of learning is suited to many students and is why there is such success in this model, particularly for students who prefer learning in a practical environment. While there is a written component to VET studies, there is a strong emphasis on hands-on learning.  Students who are unsure of their future career can undergo a VET course in an area of interest with the hope that it will assist them to determine a pathway forward for the rest of their schooling.  

VET courses enable students to attain a certificate II or III in a particular field.  If a student goes on to gain an apprenticeship in the area they studied in VET, their VET certificate will, in most cases, contribute as credit towards some units in the apprenticeship training and therefore reduce the length of the apprenticeship.  

Part of the requirement for many of the VET courses is a Structured Workplace Learning, (SWL), placement to complement the course work.  This enables students to gain experience and develop skills in an actual workplace. Businesses and organisations host a young person within their workforce for a specified time. This can be either one day a week for up to 20 weeks or every day for a one-week block. This valuable experience enhances the students learning and provides them with unique reallife experience in the workforce.  In turn, the employer can use the process to seek prospective new apprentices or trainees and have them work in their team to assess if they are a good fit for their business.  In hosting a student, employers support skill development in their industry and assist a young person with their studies.  SWL is a valuable component of the VET training process and is a fantastic way for businesses to keep talented young people local. 

 

 

MATES

MATES make a difference

Life changing stories from our MATES Mentoring Program.

Stephanie and Maureen

Both mentors and mentees get a lot out of the program.  Being in her 70’s and never having had children of her own, ‘Maureen’ was quite apprehensive at the start to be matched with a teenager!  Maureen often says she feels she gets more out of being with Stephanie than she gives.  Having never been married or had her own children, Maureen always beams when talking about Stephanie and their mentoring relationship. She often talks about how much she has learnt about a younger generation from her relationship with Stephanie.  Maureen is a wonderful positive role model for Stephanie. She is involved in so many committees and volunteers her time to so many causes.

Maureen and Stephanie enjoy volunteering at the ‘Driver Reviver Roadside Coffee stop.’  Here they work together making coffee for travellers passing by.  Stephanie enjoys this immensely and Maureen has happily taken Stephanie’s sister along, for this activity.  Stephanie says “Maureen is like my grandma. She is very caring and she takes what she does seriously, especially volunteering. I look up to her, she’s inspiring and like my best friend.  I could talk to her about anything and I trust her completely.  Maureen has encouraged me to do so many things I would never have done before which I am so grateful for. Without Maureen in my life I would still be really shy, wouldn’t trust many people and still be disorganised!”

Tony and Mandy

‘Mandy’ mentors ‘Tony’ and she has opened up a whole new world for him. Tony has learning difficulties and leads a very sheltered life. When Mandy entered his world everything opened up for Tony.  Mandy created opportunities for Tony to experience activities that he had only ever dreamt of.  He desperately wanted to learn how to fish, so Mandy organised a member of the local angling club to take them both out fishing. They caught four fish and finished the day off with a family BBQ. That day, Tony went fishing for the first time, caught his first fish and had his maiden voyage in a boat.  On one occasion, Mandy had taken Tony to play tennis. She had her husband be the ball boy so they wouldn’t waste their precious hour chasing the ball. While there, Tony noticed the bowling green but he didn’t know what lawn bowls was. Mandy went beyond the call of duty and had the Ladies President of the Bowling Club give them both lessons on the green.

(Names of mentors and mentees in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of participants.)