Nick & Sarah's Story: “I didn’t want my kids to suffer like I did..."

Like many parents that have grown up in disadvantaged circumstances, Sarah wanted better for her children.

That’s why she was determined to give them an early appreciation of books, and the literacy skills she missed out on as a child.

“My mum immigrated over here from Yugoslavia, and she wasn’t very literate, she had very broken English. For me, it was really difficult growing up because mum couldn’t really teach me how to read. I remember going through school, crying a lot of the time when the teacher asked me to read because I wasn’t comfortable, not knowing how to read or spell or do all those sorts of things. It was really important for me when I started having children, I didn’t want my kids to suffer like I did. I wanted them to be confident.”

For Sarah, United Way’s early literacy initiatives are doing more than providing her children with quality books she otherwise might not have been able to afford. The program’s tip sheets and literacy resources are also helping her build the skills and confidence she needs to read to her children regularly, and to keep the books interesting and engaging.

I think when you are a new mum starting out, maybe you wouldn’t know where to start, what kind of books are suitable for your children. That was one of things I really love… every month it sends you out books that are tailored for your child’s age. The tip sheets are really helpful – they are an excellent resource for parents to be able to read. Helping us understand the concepts they will be learning from reading a book.”

The books have also provided an opportunity for her husband to spend more quality time with their children. The arrival of each new book signals a storytime session with dad:

The opportunity it has given me and my family and families that I know in our community, it’s wonderful.

“My kids don’t get to see their father very often because he works so much. The kids absolutely love Dad reading, he is the favourite. It’s a novelty for them but it also gives them a beautiful opportunity to spend time with dad. It’s great to be able to have that opportunity and to help my husband be aware of the need for them to read, and the excitement and enjoyment that Nick gets out of it.”

These reading activities are especially important for her youngest son Nick, who starts school next year and was recently diagnosed with a speech impediment. The reading activities expose him to new words and sounds, reinforcing the correct pronunciation and helping him to practice. Sarah says Nick has progressed in “leaps and bounds” and is so impressed that she’s become a ‘parent ambassador’ for the program in North St Marys, NSW. She hopes one day the program can expand to more families like hers.

When I meet other parents in the area, one of the first things I ask them is if they are a member of the Imagination Library. If they aren’t I will pull out my little flyer and say ‘You need to be, it’s amazing!’ The opportunity it has given me and my family and families that I know in our community, it’s wonderful. I can’t comprehend that there are people out there who care that much to help our children…

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