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Portrait of smart girl reading book in library

Talk for Success

When my children were little, they were full of questions. What’s that? Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs bark? Where is Grandma? As they got older the questions got harder. What is electricity? How does a car work? And harder. How big is the universe? If something is watertight is it also airtight? Is it possible to go back in time? Thank goodness for Google.

Most of us get a bit frustrated by children’s constant questions and curiosity. This is how they learn and they are asking you because they love and trust you. Speaking and listening to your children is an important way to help your kid’s language and literacy development. As you children learn how to talk, their brains are making billions of connections which also support the development of their literacy skills.

I didn’t fully realise how important language is to literacy development until I attended a recent presentation at Warracknabeal Primary School by Rosy Wallis. Rosy now lives in Nhill and is a former student of Warracknabeal primary and secondary schools. Rosy has spent much of her working life teaching literacy to children and has completed extensive post graduate study on literacy and language development.

Rosy spoke about a recent project that she undertook as part of her research. Rosy’s thesis was about Oral Language in the ‘Everyday Life’ of Young Rural Children. The key messages from the presentation were that families need to talk to their children about a wide range of subjects and, importantly, listen and respond to their questions. Introducing new words and extending children’s vocabulary are essential for literacy development and good performance at school.

By talking, listening and reading to your children you are helping them to reach their full potential. Children are born ready to learn and the best learning occurs early in life. Parents are children’s first and most important teachers.

Reading with young children is the single most important activity that you can undertake to develop a child’s future reading and writing skills.

The experiences your child has in their early years set the foundation for lifelong learning, behavior, and health. Everything you do with your baby shapes their brain and their capacity to learn and to get along with others.

Building strong reading skills starts very early in life. Kids who are read to from birth, will do much better in reading and this helps them to succeed at school. Children who read well do better in education, and this leads to getting a good job, higher pay and having a good life. Kids who read succeed.

 

Let's Readh Horsham launch

Wimmera leads the way

The Wimmera Southern Mallee region is leading the nation in an effort to improve literacy. The Let’s Read program will be implemented across the region throughout this year. This is the first time that the program has been rolled out in every community across four shires. The program will support all families across the 28,500 km2 covered by the Hindmarsh, Horsham Rural City, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack shires.

So, why is improving literacy important? Low literacy levels generally lead to poor education and life outcomes.   A 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics study shows that 44% of Australians, aged 15-74 have literacy levels below level 3. Level 3 is considered as the minimum level to meet the complex demands of life and work in the 21st century. The Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey also found that 600,000 Australians fall below level 1 reading level and a further 1.1 million Australians are at level 1.

What does this mean for our communities? The future prosperity and well being of the region (and the nation) depends on having a skilled literate workforce.   Our local businesses and our communities need people with good reading and maths skills to ensure that the Wimmera Mallee continues to grow and thrive. Poor literacy skills are associated with generally lower education, earnings, health and social outcomes as well as being linked to high rates of unemployment, welfare dependence and teenage parenting.

The Industry Skills Council 2011 paper, ‘No More Excuses’, highlights the critical need for improvements in language, literacy and numeracy skills and noted the following key points:

  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) are the essential skills that enable people to be productive in their work, to continue to learn and develop, and to participate fully in society.
  • Literally millions of Australians have insufficient LLN skills to benefit fully from training or to participate effectively at work
  • The situation looks as if it could be getting worse, not better: the LLN performance of Australian students has, over the past decade, worsened in comparison to other OECD countries

The Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN is working with Maternal Child and Health nurses, schools, kindergartens, playgroups, local government and community organisations to implement the Let’s Read program across the region. Let’s Read is an early years literacy program aimed at promoting the importance of reading with young children from birth to 5 years. The program was developed at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Smith Family have partnered to implement Let’s Read with communities across Australia.

The program delivers support, books and resources to families at 4 different child age points. Maternal and Child Health nurses provide support and the resources to families when their babies are 4 months, 12 months, 18 months and 3½ years.

Parents are children’s first and most important teachers. Try to read at least one book a day to your child. Your children will grow to love books and become strong readers. The earlier you start, the better, and remember, kids who read succeed!

Portrait of happy family with two children looking at camera and laughing

8 Easy Ways to Help Your Child Succeed

Reading has always been an important skill. In our modern world it is more important than ever.

Children learn about the importance of reading as they watch family members use reading and writing for everyday purposes.

Reading with young children is the single most important activity that you can undertake to develop a child’s future reading and writing skills. Reading aloud to children also supports their development in other ways – it supports language development, promotes parent/child bonding and helps parents relate positively to their children.

Reading with your child at home will help your child in all learning areas of school. You can also read to your children when you are out and about. You can read shop signs, shopping brochures, traffic signs, billboards and junk mail. Children see you reading and writing in everyday life – reading for pleasure, sharing a story with your child, using a recipe, making a shopping list, writing a birthday card or reading road signs. This teaches them that reading and writing are useful skills in today’s world.

Here are eight great tips to help your child succeed at school:

  1. Be yourself. Involve children in everyday conversations
  2. Read aloud to children. It helps them to learn the language of books and will encourage them to enjoy books and reading
  3. Talk about books, read together and make reading an enjoyable, shared activity
  4. Make sure there is a wide range of reading material for your child at home
  5. Try not to let television intrude on reading time. Make a special time for reading with your child, away from interruption (bed time is great)
  6. Listen to your child read every day, even for a short time
  7. Give books as treats and presents
  8. Join your local library – It’s free and they’ve got lots of books for you to borrow

So when do we start? You should begin reading to your babies from birth, or at the very least, from 3 or 4 months of age. You can’t start too early. The first five years are the most important development years in your child’s life. Every time you read to your baby it helps to create those important connections in the brain that support good language and literacy skills.

By age 3, kids spoken to, and read to more frequently have an IQ that’s 1.5 times higher than that of children who weren’t. By the time they’re in primary school, they will develop stronger reading, spelling, and writing skills.

Children who are not read to on a daily basis start kindergarten and primary school behind their peers. There is significant research that says that most kids who start behind, never catch up. By reading to your children on a daily basis you are giving them the best possible start to life.

You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Read daily to your child. The earlier you start, the better, and remember, kids who read succeed!

06Lets Read

Reading to Babies

When do I start reading to my child?

We all want the best for our children. If our kids are happy, healthy and doing well, then life is good. Our children are born with 100 billion neurons in their brains, and the key development stage is from birth through to age 8. During this time, our kids’ brains are a hive of electrical activity, with brain cells and neurons making connections at astonishing speeds of up to two million connections in a minute.

What can we do to make sure that our children are developing the required skills for them to succeed at school and at life? Reading with our children is the single most important activity that you can undertake to develop a child’s future reading and writing skills. Reading aloud to children also supports their development in other ways – it provides intensive language exposure and supports language development, promotes parent-child bonding and socialisation, and helps parents relate positively to their children.

It doesn’t matter what you read. It can be books, newspapers, magazines, comics, street signs, catalogues or shop signs. Your child will develop important skills that will enable them to thrive at kinder and school.

So when do we start? You should begin reading to your babies from birth, or at the very least, from 3 or 4 months of age.

Children love the sound of your voice, and soon enjoy the pictures and stories contained in books. Nursery Rhymes and singing songs are also great ways to help your child’s brain develop.

Books are a great present for children, so if you are a parent, an aunt or uncle, grandparent or friend and you can’t think of what to get for a birthday or Christmas, then a book is a great option.

Here are some great tips for reading to infants aged around 4 months to 12 months. These tips from the Royal Children’s Hospital Let’s Read program are helpful for older babies as well.

Whe reading with babies, they like:

  • being close to you
  • watching your face and lips move
  • hearing the sound of your voice
  • listening to different sounds and music
  • hearing same words, rhymes and stories over and over again
  • looking at books with colours, faces and pictures of other babies
  • touching and tasting books

How you can help your baby grow into a strong reader:

  • smile and hold your baby close so they can see your face and the book
  • copy the sounds your baby makes e.g. “da-da-da”
  • help your baby bounce and move to the rhythm of your voice or music
  • talk or sing about what you are doing when caring for your baby
  • notice what your baby is looking at and name it
  • share stories with your baby in the language you feel most comfortable with
  • start at the front of a book—you don’t have to finish it, a few pages is great!
  • keep books in easy reach of your baby
  • join the library—it’s free and fun. We have got great libraries right across the Wimmera Mallee and they have lots of books for you to borrow. You will be made very welcome and your local librarian will help you select some great books for you and your children.
Teacher Helping Children To Read

Succeeding at School

How to help your child succeed at school

A 2006 ABS study shows that 46% of Australians, aged 15-74 have literacy levels below level 3. Level 3 is considered as the minimum level to meet the demands of life and work in the 21st century. Many people with poor reading skills have lower paid jobs and poorer health outcomes.

We know that:

  • Not all children arrive at school ready to take advantage of the learning opportunities provided at school. In Australia 22% of children are developmentally vulnerable in one or more domains of development
  • Children who fall behind in the first few years of schooling often find it very difficult to catch up to their peers even with appropriate intervention.
  • Many families are not aware of the importance of promoting their children’s early literacy or the strategies to use to ensure its development
  • Year 4 children ranked 27th out of 45 countries in reading making us one the lowest ranked English-speaking countries in the world.
  • Many of our children, across the Wimmera Mallee, are below the national benchmark for reading, writing and language skills. Our kids don’t do as well at school, on average, as their city cousins.
  • But, here is the good news. There is a simple way to help our children succeed at school. We should read to our children from birth every day. Aim to read at least a book a day. The more reading and books, the better. It’s always a great bed time ritual to read to your children.

Literacy is a vital skill in today’s world. Reading with children from birth is probably the single most important activity families, communities and professionals can undertake to improve their child’s future ability to read and write.

Sharing stories from birth gives children a great start to life. The best way to get children ready for their future is by helping them build a solid early language and literacy foundation well before school. Reading with children helps protect them from later reading problems, supports vocabulary (word) and brain development and helps strengthen adult-child bonding.

Children are born ready to learn and the best learning occurs early in life. Parents are children’s first and most important teachers. Building strong reading skills starts very early in life. Kids who are read to from birth, will do much better in reading and this helps them to succeed at school. Children who read well do better in education, and this leads to getting a good job, higher pay and having a good life. It doesn’t matter if it only takes one minute, five minutes or ten minutes. Any time is better than no time at all.

Every time you read to your baby it helps to create those important connections in the brain that support brain development and good literacy skills. Reading skills are skills that will serve your child well, for life. Reading a book in your child’s early years is so much better for them than playing on a ‘screen’.