Bidelia, Jenna & Jill’s Story
“When the books arrive…they jump for joy.”
When asked to recall their first teacher, most people think of their prep or kinder teacher.
But in reality, their first teachers were the same people who brought them home from the hospital when they were only a few days old – their parents.
Responsible for the wellbeing and financial support of their children, the role of parents as children’s first educators is sometimes overlooked. But it’s proven to be vitally important for children’s brain development in the crucial early years, impacting on both school readiness and opportunities in later life.
Spending quality time together and getting children interested and engaged in books is one of the most important things a parent can do as their child’s first educator. But many parents fear they lack skills to read with their children, especially if their own levels of education are not high, or if English is their second language. This lack of confidence can translate to limited early learning opportunities for children, contributing to the high rates of developmental vulnerability found for children starting school in communities of disadvantage.
That’s where community collaborations like United Way’s early years initiatives are so important.
Not only do they bring children quality, age-appropriate books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, they help provide parents with the skills, confidence and support to engage in shared learning activities with their children.
Bidelia is just one of the thousands of parents benefitting from the program. Having arrived in Australia when her daughter Jenna (now four) was just one year old, she took the opportunity to have monthly books and reading tips delivered as part of the Imagination Library. She’s also since signed up her youngest daughter Jill (two years old), having seen the impact the monthly books have made to the family.
It really creates more interest in books and reading, they really enjoy it. When the books started arriving the children really get excited, they wanted to read the book again.”
The monthly tip sheets are helping give Bidelia the confidence to engage in more shared reading with her daughters, who ask to have their favourites read with to them over and again (Angelina ballerina for Jenna, and The Hungry Caterpillar for Jill). And each time they come together, they’re building more than just early literacy skills. The simple act of shared reading has shown to have positive impacts across children’s brain development, their confidence and identity, and their sense of inclusiveness and connectedness – all vital for starting school ready to thrive.
It’s one of the reasons Bidelia is now a passionate advocate for the Imagination Library, and is encouraging other parents to take part.
I believe parents are the basic teachers first for children. Early childhood literacy is really important. If you have a chance for your child to register, you have to register! It will be really useful for the kids and also for the parents to encourage them to read.”