Aileen, Luke and Vera’s story*

For many children growing up in Doveton Victoria, the chance of reaching their full potential is slim. One of the most disadvantaged urban postcodes in Victoria, families in the Doveton community are more likely to experience poor levels of health and education, and high rates of unemployment and poverty. Many children miss out on opportunities to build the skills they need to start school ready to read, learn and succeed in later life.

Like many parents who were never read to as children, Vera was not a good reader, and didn’t read to her own two daughters (now adults) when they were young. They in turn didn’t read to their own children, and so the cycle might have continued had Vera not chanced upon United Way at the local show last year. Part of United Way’s early childhood development initiative, free books and reading resources are sent each month to families each month, giving parents, carers and grandparents tools to help prepare their children for school.vc2

The best part about it is that you get good books that are suitable for their ages, but they [also] give you information about what to do with the book,said Vera when telling us about reading with her grandchildren, Luke (aged 4) and Aileen (almost 2). Before I would just read a book and say, ‘well we’ve read the book’, but now we talk about what happened. It’s really quite exciting; I think I get as much out of it as the kids!

Building the reading skills and confidence of parents and carers is an important part of the program, with monthly tips on how to maximise the learning benefits from every book and bring the stories to life. Kids begin to associate reading time as a positive experience and ask to be read to more. By the time they start school, they’re comfortable with and excited about books and the opportunities they provide.vc1

When we read ‘The Story About Ping’, that was set on the Yangtze river, we got the globe out and checked it all out. Now I know where China is, and Luke knows the places better than I do, Vera tells us. In addition to learning about new places and people, Vera can see her grandchildren are beginning to develop the basics they’ll need to do well in school.

You hope that by reading books to them that they will be able to have a good education. I never read books when I was little, and my girls never read either. But I’m sure Luke’s going to be ready for school because of all the reading ­– he loves books, and he can write his name on the Cubby house door (as long as it’s in chalk!).

*Not real names



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