Early literacy development has been proven to be vital to later academic success. Research indicates that children from disadvantaged and low-income families read fewer books, and often encounter literacy problems later in life. Children from low socio-economic backgrounds, including migrants, refugees and indigenous people, often struggle to keep up with their peers at school. Over 85% of students at the Greater Dandenong area partner schools had a language background other than English, a significant proportion of whom were also not literate in their first language.
Reading Out of Poverty is committed to supporting the most disadvantaged Victorian families. The Read, Learn and Play program engages parents and young children aged 0–5 in reading and early literacy activities, promoting school readiness and a love and habit of reading. The program ran within the Scanlon Foundation hubs, connecting schools, playgroups and Maternal Child Health (MCH) services.
Aims & objectives
The aims of the program were to:
- enhance verbal literacy skills amongst the children supported
- develop a love for and a habit of reading within participating families
- increase understanding of the value of book ownership in the home
- promote school readiness
- equip parents to support their children in their learning, and
- raise community awareness of the importance of early literacy development.
Measures of success included playgroups attendance, engagement of parents and children in reading, number of books in homes and oral language proficiency.
Read, Learn & Play engaged 1500 children in the Dandenong/Doveton region with early literacy activities. On average we conducted 12 weekly reading out aloud story sessions in partner playgroups and pop-up libraries in public spaces like community centres, local Community Hubs and the Dandenong hospital. Volunteers conducted most early literacy activities while Program Manager, Emma Pearce, remained actively involved with the delivery and observation of children.
Through the involvement of parents in playgroups, we were able to reach out to people of disadvantaged, often bilingual, backgrounds. We built partnerships with 20 community partners in the region where we could advocate for the need to read to children from a young age. We raised awareness within our community partners and all parents involved in the program.
The project helped realise the:
- establishment of the Read, Learn and Play volunteering program in multiple sites in the Greater Dandenong area
- engagement of over 1000 children in playgroups where developing a love of reading was a core focus, and
- networks strengthened between service providers in the Greater Dandenong area allowing for more efficient and targeted support for families.
Improvements in literacy engagement and skills were evidenced by increased rates of night-time parent–child reading and attendance at playgroups.
Stakeholder feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with families and project partners commenting on the enjoyment and popularity of the Read, Learn and Play program and its volunteers.
"What an absolute blessing Anne has been!! The kids love her, she engages so well, always stays and helps pack up... She's gone completely above and beyond!! Can't appreciate her enough!!" - Melanie Mumford (Community Hub Leader)
Future needs identified through this work included the desire for bilingual material in first languages, increased representation in books of target children and families, and supporting literacy development by bringing parent and child closer together through language and play.
Reading Out of Poverty is currently exploring development and distribution options for this bilingual material. We are keen to discuss this work, together with plans for wider implementation of the Read, Learn and Play program, with potential project partners and sponsors also interested in making a difference to the lives of our most disadvantaged families.
Katie Pinchas, Educator and Volunteer Coordinator, Reading out of Poverty
"The Foundation is proud of the successful outcomes from the Read, Learn, and Play program, from the overall improved early literacy skills to the establishment of a volunteer base to run the program. Reading Out of Poverty is a small organisation and a first time grantee. Their proactive approach to evaluation means that they will be able to track and share the long-term outcomes of their findings to the benefit of others working in the sector. The program was further enhanced by building relationships with 20 community partners in the region. This successful program proves that you don’t have to be a big fish to enact real change in people’s lives."
Nicole Bortone, Education Program Manager