While it’s a well-known fact that quality books help build early literacy skills and spark imaginations, the benefits of shared reading can be much more profound.
In fact, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has enormous benefits across a range developmental areas, as one mum discovered. We first heard from Mae, mother to then 3-year-old Evan, in 2014. Close to tears, Mae told us how Evan was not communicating with his peers and teachers at childcare or meeting his developmental milestones. We immediately signed Evan up to his local Imagination Library in West Ryde.
Once the Imagination Library books arrived, Mae began reading to Evan every day. Although English isn’t her first language, she picked out words she knew and explained what they meant. She used the United Way parent tip sheets to help bring the books to life and maximise Evan’s learning. Before long, she told us “reading books became his habit and part of his daily routine.”
The greatest part of the program was letting Evan make friends with books. It was a big change before and after the program.
Evan reading his monthly book
There was a noticeable change in Evan. He became much more confident in asking for what he needed, and began to form friendships for the very first time. His childcare educators noticed the changes and asked Mae what she was doing differently at home.
Proudly, she was able to tell them how she was supporting her son through shared reading – a simple activity that made the world of difference to his confidence and communication skills.
In 2016 Mae phoned to say her son was now learning to spell out words and could even read simple books independently. He had come a long way in just two short years. “Evan is ready for school next year!”, she excitedly told us.
While early literacy skills are vital, for Evan and other children who might struggle with language barriers, building the self-confidence to communicate and a sense of identity as a reader are just as important for starting school ready to learn. And these are skills that can have a lifelong impact.
When Mae recently got in touch about Evan’s progress, while the Imagination Library books had stopped when he graduated the program, the benefits had continued. Evan is now thriving in school, and is in the highest reading literacy group in his year level.
“The greatest part of the program was letting Evan make friends with books. It was a big change before and after the program. The books you gave to him built a solid foundation – thank you very much.”