I always knew reading to my kids was important, but this has opened my eyes to how important and how much.
From little things...
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 which was later extended to include Armadale, Rockingham, Bayswater, East Pilbara and Ashburton.
Better Beginnings reading packs were provided through libraries and community health nurses who gave them to parents bringing their babies to their six week health check. To build on this, Better Beginnings outreach tool boxes with books, puppets and literacy games were lent by libraries to community groups. A number of libraries established family reading centres and began regular rhyme time and story time sessions for families.
An independent evaluation of the pilot by Edith Cowan University demonstrated the program's positive impact on the attitudes, behaviours and practices of parents around early literacy.
Better Beginnings gave me and other mothers a new insight into reading with our children...the program showed us how to have fun reading and teaching our children.
Parent, Joondalup Library, 2006
Funded by the State Government of Western Australia, The Department of Regional Development and Lands through Royalties for Regions, Western Australian Local Governments and Rio Tinto, Better Beginnings has reached more than 340,000 families. Every local government in Western Australia offers the program to families in their communities - from providing the free books and reading packs to running regular baby rhyme time sessions in libraries. In 2005 to 2006 alone, participating libraries conducted 624 baby rhyme sessions involving 8,096 parents, carers and babies and held 265 information sessions for 1,468 parents. More than 230 outreach visits to child-care centres, playgroups and community health centres were conducted with 1,355 children and carers taking part.
...big things grow
Today, Better Beginnings reaches over 60,000 families each year throughout Western Australia from Wyndham to Esperance. 2010 saw the program expand 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. By working together, twenty-five libraries and ninety-five schools provided over 8,500 kindergarten and pre-primary children and their families with a free picture book and literacy information reinforcing the importance of shared reading and parental involvement.
As part of this pilot, the Read To Me I Love It! project was developed in consultation with twenty community councils, health services and schools and trialled with families living in remote Aboriginal communities. After the successful 2010 pilot, the program was offered more widely bringing the total to more than 100 Aboriginal communities and organisations currently participating.
To ensure that all families in Western Australia can share in the reading journey, a community publishing project Creating Books in Communities has seen the development and publication of children's books in Armadale, Katanning, Perth, Belmont, Kununurra and Carnarvon. The books tell the stories of families and children that can be shared with their communities.
Two new programs were piloted in 2012:
Hairy Tales of Heroboy is for newly independent readers aged six to nine. The program aims to encourage children to discover the pleasure of reading and the enjoyment of a range of reading material through a collectible card game that tells an unfolding story of two children on a journey through a twisted fairytale world on their quest to defeat an evil villain. The cards also provide a game to appeal to a generation of young readers who are immersed in a highly visual and technological environment.
READ! Anytime, Anywhere, Anyhow is a literacy and reading program for adults designed to promote reading for pleasure to develop, strengthen and build family reading and literacy skills and encourage emerging readers to have the confidence to further explore reading.