Better Beginnings is developed and managed by The State Library of Western Australia and delivered through public libraries. The program is funded via a tri-partite alliance between the Government of Western Australia (including Royalties for Regions), Western Australian local governments and Rio Tinto. One of the key aims of this partnership between state and local government and the business sector is to support the development of literacy in children from birth providing them with greater potential to grow, learn and develop, perform well at school and succeed in later life. Improved literacy levels across Western Australia contributes to the creation of a skilled workforce and future economic development. Better Beginnings encourages all families to Read, Talk, Sing, Write and Play with their child every day.
From a small start . . .
In 2004, six communities and local libraries in Western Australia - Gosnells, Mandurah, Midland, Carnarvon, Halls Creek and Kalgoorlie - and just over 1,000 families were involved in the Better Beginnings pilot program. Better Beginnings reading packs were provided through libraries and Community Child Health Nurses who gave them to parents at their babies six-week health check.
. . . we have grown . . .
In 2010 the program expanded when, as a result of a successful pilot, free reading packs and other resources were made available through local libraries to four and five-year-old children starting formal schooling.
. . . and grown . . .
Acknowledging the need for a touch-point between the existing Better Beginnings Birth and Kindergarten packs for children, the Sing With Me pack for two-year olds was piloted in 2016. Like the other Better Beginnings resources, the Sing With Me pack aims to support family literacy and continues to promote the key Better Beginnings messages, encouraging parents to read and sing with their children every day and visit their local public library.
. . . to this . . .
Today, Better Beginnings reaches over 60,000 families each year throughout Western Australia and every local government in Western Australia offers the program to the families in their communities.
. . . winning awards along the way!
- Winner of the Premier’s Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management in 2006;
- Winner of the Toyota Community Award at the 2007 Australia Business and Arts Foundation Awards;
- Winner of the Western Australia category at the 2007 Australia Council Young Arts for Young People Award;
- Shortlisted for the Library of Congress Literacy Awards in 2013;
- Winner of the Strengthening Families and Communities category at the 2013 Western Australian Premier’s Awards;
- Best Practice Honoree in the 2017 Library of Congress Literacy Awards, in recognition of the program applying evidence-based approach to early literacy through research;
- In December 2018, Rio Tinto was shortlisted for the Corporate Social Responsibility Excellence Category of the AIM WA Pinnacle Awards for their partnership with the Better Beginnings family literacy program;
- And we are the Australian representative on the Global Early Years Book Gifting Network.
Evaluation of the Better Beginnings Family Literacy Program
An independent evaluation of the initial pilot program by Edith Cowan University demonstrated the program's positive impact on the attitudes, behaviours and practices of parents around early literacy. Their longitudinal evaluation of the Better Beginnings program demonstrates that Better Beginnings is having a significant positive impact on early reading practices, attitudes and beliefs across Western Australia.
The evaluation reports can be downloaded here.
The State Library of Western Australia
The State Library of Western Australia provides free access to information resources and services, in partnership with Western Australian local governments operating 233 public libraries throughout the State. The State Library aims to enrich the lives of Western Australians by enabling access to resources for information, learning, enterprise and recreation, and by collecting and preserving our social and documentary heritage for current and future generations.
Western Australian Public Libraries
Public Libraries sit at the heart of Better Beginnings, acting as the community hub supporting parents in their role as their child’s first teacher. They are the distribution point for the Better Beginnings program within their community and liaise with local schools and Community Child Health Nurses to ensure the program is accessible to families in their area. Many public libraries deliver early childhood programs at their library which support the Better Beginnings program and encourage families to Read, Talk, Sing, Write and Play with their child every day.
Government of Western Australia - Royalties for Regions
Royalties for Regions underpins the State Government's long-term commitment to developing Western Australia's regional areas into strong and vibrant regional communities that are desirable places to live, work and invest.
Royalties for Regions focuses on delivering benefits to regional WA through six objectives:
- Building capacity in regional communities
- Retaining benefits in regional communities
- Improving services to regional communities
- Attaining sustainability
- Expanding opportunity
- Growing prosperity.
Global mining company Rio Tinto established the WA Future Fund to identify and support initiatives that contribute to the long-term sustainability of Western Australia. From early literacy programs to apprenticeships, Rio Tinto believes opportunities for quality education and training will have a profound impact on an individual and their community. Rio Tinto is particularly proud of its Indigenous education and training programs, and its ongoing focus on improving early literacy standards.
Health and Education
In delivering Better Beginnings, the State Library works with the Child and Adolescent Health Service, Child and Adolescent Community Health and the WA Country Health Service to deliver reading packs to parents at their baby’s 6 - 8 week child health visit. The Kindergarten program is delivered in partnership with the Department of Education, the Association of Independent Schools and the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia.