I have a vivid memory of the first time I read out loud to my eldest daughter, Grace. She was only a few weeks old and I am sure that any capacity for forming sentences would have been considered a miracle … on my part that is, not the baby’s! We had both changed into our third outfit for the day (an assumption of style or taste would be wrong on your part) and our apartment looked like an explosion of disposable goods. It was ramping up to be another day in ‘paradise’.
I was presented with a choice. I could sit and take a few deep breaths or self-combust. I wisely chose the former and began to rummage around in the ‘gift pile’ for something to divert my attention — like a voucher that entitled the bearer to SLEEP! I spied a picture book with a glistening pastel cover and thought, That looks pretty; I’ll give it a go. It was a little book called Guess How Much I Love You? and I have since become an uncomfortable stalker of Sam McBratney’s.
Grace and I nestled down into the puked-stained armchair (it just had that aroma that kept on giving) and began a 10-minute holiday from ourselves. At the time I assumed this was more for my benefit than hers and for the first few pages I engaged with the story using my limited and rather pathetic repertoire of character voices, while Grace quietly cradled against me. When I peeked down at her I was met with a broad gummy smile that was completely unexpected. Cynics may argue that a good bout of wind was mostly likely the cause; however, it prompted a relationship with books that has had both my girls whacking them over my head while I slept, negotiating three stories plus a night and obsessively reading book series in number order only (you can’t imagine the outrage if #4 is read ahead of #1, #2 and #3)!
It was these memories that came to mind when I met Afrouz Shoghi from the Let’s Read National Early Literacy campaign earlier this year. Chatting at a children’s book festival and learning more about the early literacy goals of the program resonated with me, as I am passionate about kids learning while being blissfully unaware of the good it is doing them — a bit like when I sneak grated zucchini into the bolognaise sauce!
Coming from an age where education was founded on the fear of humiliation, I was inspired by the program’s focus to educate parents, childcare professionals and communities on simple and effective strategies that all can participate in. With 34 percent of parents apparently unaware of the importance of reading and sharing stories with children from birth, Let’s Read provides support and accessible resources that promote the impact of early literacy on children’s long-term learning and educational development. Their aim is to create literacy-rich home environments and communities through empowering parents and building their confidence to play a key role in their child’s learning.
The resources and tools come in a variety of formats, including vibrant downloadable tip sheets, research reports, DVDs and a soon-to-be-launched online learning course, that will enable the reach of the program to become truly national in nature.
You can find out more about the program and their events, and sign up to the newsletter by visiting their website. The online training program will be released in September 2013.