Fam­ily read­ing gets $1m boost

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

ABO­RIG­I­NAL par­ents who can’t read will be taught how so they can read sto­ry­books to their young.

It’s hoped the $1 mil­lion NSW Fam­i­lies As First Teach­ers read­ing pro­gram will lift flag­ging Abo­rig­i­nal lit­er­acy rates and school en­rol­ments, giv­ing kids the best pos­si­ble start to their school­ing lives.

Par­ents will also be taught about the im­por­tance of early ed­u­ca­tion.

Abo­rig­i­nal mum Natalie Bolt knows plenty of other par­ents who silently feel shame for be­ing il­lit­er­ate.

“Lots of Abo­rig­i­nal kids are dis­ad­van­taged be­cause they don’t get read to enough at home,” Ms Bolt said. “It’s a great idea to help Abo­rig­i­nal par­ents shed the shame of not be­ing able to read and write, be­cause it stops them help­ing their kids with their home­work.”

Min­is­ter for Abo­rig­i­nal Af­fairs and Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion Sarah Mitchell hopes the Fam­i­lies As First Teach­ers pro­gram will level the play­ing field so all kids are ready for their first day of pri­mary school.

“As a mother, I know how im­por­tant it is for a child’s learn­ing to start and con­tinue at home, and feel­ing sup­ported through a pro­gram such as this can have a re­ally pos­i­tive im­pact,” Ms Mitchell said.

“This pro­gram was de­vel­oped be­cause I be­lieve it is cru­cial for all chil­dren, no mat­ter where they are from, to have ac­cess to top qual­ity learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.”

The ba­sis of the pro­gram is the be­lief that fam­i­lies are the main in­flu­ence on learn­ing and preschool ed­u­ca­tion doesn’t go far enough.

Re­search shows preschool is es­sen­tial for chil­dren’s aca­demic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment be­cause many who start school with­out core skills in lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy never catch up. But the govern­ment wants to go fur­ther by bol­ster­ing the abil­ity of Abo­rig­i­nal fam­i­lies to build a “rich home learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment”.

The new fund­ing is be­ing of­fered to Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity not-for- profit or­gan­i­sa­tions and lo­cal coun­cils with proven ties to early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly those with ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with Abo­rig­i­nal fam­i­lies with chil­dren younger than five.

It’s the lat­est ef­fort in a cam­paign to en­sure ev­ery child has at least 600 hours of ed­u­ca­tion in the year be­fore school. Last year the num­ber of Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der chil­dren who at­tended preschool more than 15 hours a week rose by 11.6 per cent.

Chil­dren like three-year-olds Piper Brindle and Callen Ridge­way, read­ing in Mac­quarie Fields dur­ing the week, will ben­e­fit from Fam­i­lies As First Teach­ers. Pic­ture: Tim Hunter

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