Skip to main content

Early learning support gives children a chance

Many of us have fond memories of reading bedtime stories. Cuddled up with our favourite teddy bear, we would eye the pictures and listen to exciting adventures that fuelled our imaginations. We didn’t know then that these cherished moments were helping to prepare us for lifelong learning.

Thousands of disadvantaged Australian children will never have these memories. They are missing out on vital early learning experiences. With the launch of our Let’s Read program in the ACT, Sally is excited to help a generation of children in need start off on the right foot.

“For some families, helping kids to read doesn't come as naturally. What we've found is that a lot of families don't have books at home,” says Sally, our Smith Family Learning for Life Program Coordinator.

Sally - Learning for life coordinator
Sally is thrilled to see the benefits of Let’s Read

They don't read to their children, for whatever reason. There are a huge amount of reasons why they don't - they might not be able to read; they might not speak English very well.

It’s incredible to think that missing out on reading time in the early years could have such a detrimental impact on a child’s future potential. By age four disadvantaged children are already well behind their peers, and by age six many are around seven times more likely than other children to be doing badly at school.1

Struggling with their own literacy is often just one obstacle facing disadvantaged parents and carers. With limited financial resources, these families often barely have enough for food, shelter and clothing.

“They don't have toys and books … so there's no stimulation. Some of the kids don't go to preschool either… so they're not having any sort of literacy exposure,” says Sally.

Developed by the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and The Royal Children’s Hospital, Let’s Read* provides families in need with the skills and resources to develop a love of reading early on. Sally is delighted to have implemented the program in the ACT in March this year.

“We’ve got a great partnership with a local Child and Family Centre and they use the Let's Read program. They do home visits and things like that,” says Sally.

To ensure parents have tips and books that are suitable for their children’s development, families receive support at four key points in a child’s early years: from 4 months, 12 months, 18 months and 3.5 years.

Let's Read participant
Children and parents benefit from the Let's Read program

Let’s Read comes with a DVD, so all the information is there. There are things that parents pick up from the DVD and from the tip sheets. And they're not just reading the book - they're talking about the pictures. So it's creating language skills as well for the children.

Although the program is only in its initial stages in the ACT, Sally is seeing an immediate impact.

“There's nothing better than picking up a book and turning the pages. It's good for kids’ fine motor skills and cognitive and language skills. The benefits are huge,” she says.

And Sally feels confident that the program will play a strong role in helping to break the cycle of disadvantage.

“Often it can be hard to get disadvantaged families to try anything to do with school … because often they've had terrible experiences themselves. They're the ones who fell through the cracks. And this is why we don't want it to happen to their kids, because education does break the cycle,” says Sally.

With Let’s Read successfully implemented, Sally’s focus is now on reaching more families in need. There are many more children at risk of starting school behind and Sally wants to ensure that they too get the chances they deserve.

“I want to be able to offer it to the parents in the playgroups and do it in small groups as well as have it in the home, so that we're reaching more families. That's my plan,” says Sally.

“This is a program that can be really sustainable in communities. … but, again, it's funding dependent.”

If you would like to help us deliver vital learning support programs like Let’s Read to more Australian children in need, you can make a donation here. Thank you.

Hopefully these kids from an early age will be able to have all the skills to be as literate as they can be, and enjoy being at school because they're not missing something that everybody else is.
1Growing up in Australia, Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
*The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Smith Family have partnered to implement Let’s Read with communities across Australia.

Share this page