Tag Archives: wimmera

The Privilege of Learning to Read

While doing some research recently, I came across some alarming headlines: ‘Reading Wars Raging’, ‘Low literacy affecting our economy’ and ‘The Social Costs of Inadequate Literacy’. Each one was an Australian article dated in 2019. The articles’ headlines were specifically designed to evoke a great deal of emotion and action.

As a mother of two boys aged nine and ten, I feel very fortunate that both of my children are ‘at standard’ for their age in literacy. Whilst they both had a few visits with a speech pathologist in their earlier years to improve pronunciation, neither were deterred from reading. Both boys came into the world surrounded by storybooks. From babies, my husband and I would snuggle down with them, read with much animation and search the pictures for clues—where is that Green Sheep hiding?

Certainly, in their first years of school, it was a priority to sit down and ‘do their reader’ and carefully mark it off in their take-home reading diary with a sentence explaining how wonderfully they had tackled the book. This was then validated by a sticker from their teacher. Even now, we have a ten-minute reading rule every day, although it needs some enforcing at times when competing with basketball, the Xbox, and Lego. Our chosen school has a terrific reading program, a great big library full of bright and interesting books, plus reasonable class sizes and passionate teachers.

Upon reflection, I can only sit here and think, ‘Wow! Our children have really been given the privilege of learning to read’. We have had the privilege of:

  • Accessing a speech pathologist during early learning to nip in the bud any pronunciation issues
  • Having the financial discretion to buy an abundance of books and the capacity to visit libraries and reading events
  • Having both parents at home most evenings who had the time and energy to invest in sitting and reading.
  • Having a peaceful home without tension, conflict or other priorities
  • Parents who were aware of strategies to reinforce positive reading experiences
  • Access to grandparents and extended family who attentively read and encouraged their endless chatter about a ‘Pug called Pig’ and the artistic flair of a kraken.
  • A school that prioritises reading and reading support programs similar to that of the Reading Buddies Program.

Through the LLEN’s work to support early learning, I am acutely aware that the privilege of learning to read is not dealt equally to all children, particularly in rural areas. In some areas, there is limited access to speech pathologists. Some rural areas also have high levels of disadvantage and a range of social complexities that directly impact on a child’s early language development.

When the privilege of reading is removed from children and they fail to reach adequate reading standards, there are consequences. Studies indicate that young people with low levels of literacy will:

  • Be more likely to drop out of school early
  • Be less likely to gain meaningful employment
  • Become more reliant of the public health system
  • Be more likely to engage in dangerous use of alcohol and other drugs
  • Be more likely to engage in risky behaviours
  • Be less likely to be involved in community activities
  • More likely be linked to youth justice and other social welfare programs.

Whilst, as individuals, we cannot solve the complex social issues that many children face, we can certainly take the ‘village’ approach and do what we can where we can. Improving access to books and reading seems like a great place to start. So here are my commitments:

  • I will clear out children’s books that have been outgrown and donate them to charity, or to the LLEN for the pop-up libraries.
  • I will continue to volunteer in schools and advocate for the Reading Buddies Program.
  • I will put a book or two under the wishing trees at Christmas time.

I would welcome your ideas and commitments towards tackling the inequity in learning to read and to see if we can rewrite the headlines for our community. In some instances, it really does take a village…

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

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

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 https://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!

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.

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. 

 

 

Bee a Mentor!

We know that the MATES Mentoring program has made a huge difference in the lives of many young people in our community, but it is not just the mentees that benefit from the program. We hear many stories from mentors about the benefits of being a part of the program.

Mentors and mentees often report that when they meet for the first time, they are quite nervous. Mentor, Suzanne, said, “I was nervous because my mentee’s mother was there. I was worried about what her mother would think, but her mother was lovely and seemed very appreciative.”

The mentoring relationship between Suzanne and her mentee lasted well beyond the required one-year commitment to the program. Suzanne commenced mentoring when her mentee was in grade 5 and they continued to catch up during the transition to secondary college. Suzanne was able to be a friendly face and help her through the transition period. She was also there to support her mentee as she started her first job. Suzanne said, “At one of our catch-ups my mentee took me out to lunch where she now works casually and was proud to introduce me to her work mates”.

Mentoring can have some surprising benefits for the people who volunteer. Being a volunteer mentor helps you to reach out to a young person and make their world a better place. You expand your understanding of those around you and can provide support and certainty for the young person you work with.

Volunteers help hold a community together.

Helping others also raises your own happiness and this carries over to your self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Mentors in the MATES Mentoring Program have made the following comments:
MATES was a great way to volunteer in the community. The experience I got out of it was positive and I would do it again. It’s not very time consuming and it was very flexible.

I have found the MATES program very rewarding and always have a smile when I meet my mentee.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and to make a small difference.

While I am not sure if I had any real influence on my MATE, I have spoken to his teachers and they assure me that I have.

Our time together is very relaxing for me and I use it as part of my self care plan.

Evidence also shows that volunteering within your community may well benefit your physical and mental health. Make a start, sign up to volunteer as a mentor today. Learn about your community. Become part of your community. Support your community. Our rural towns are great places to live – help make them even better.

Bee a mentor!

Contact us by email 
Phone 03 5381 0122

Or fill out an online application form now!