Helping children start school ready in Doomadgee

Doomadgee_DPILIn the remote town of Doomadgee in Queensland, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is bringing more than books and literacy skills.

According to Terri Ridgeway, Save the Children’s Regional Coordinator and local Imagination Library Coordinator, the program is also playing a vital role in identifying early developmental issues and getting vulnerable children the support they need, before it’s too late.

And in a community where around 2 in 3 children start school unprepared – almost 3 times the national average – such early interventions are critical.

“The Imagination Library has been great because it gets parents involved at early age, spending time with (their kids) and identifying needs,” Terri says.

Local health and development workers have also found the program to be useful, with the town’s speech therapist using the books and reading activities to diagnose and help treat children experiencing difficulties.

The impact of the program is also being seen once children start school. The local school principal says he can see children who have taken part in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library show marked improvements in terms of being ‘school ready.’ “Children are learning, listening, they are sitting still… all the social skills that are imperative for early learning in school and in later life,” says Terri.

Most importantly, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is providing families facing severe social and economic disadvantage with quality books that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, as well as a model for engaging in positive early learning experiences.

“It’s definitely making a big difference – there aren’t any children’s libraries around the area. It’s part of a holistic approach, building a strong relationship between families, mums and dads and kids, and the community too.”

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was opened in Doomadgee to support and strengthen Save the Children’s early learning work in the community.

A better start for children in Noogaleek

DPIL-NoogaleekWith a background in teaching, Julie, a childcare worker at Noogaleek Children’s Centre, has seen first-hand the difference books and early literacy activities can have on a child’s overall development.
That’s one of the reasons she volunteered to help sign up parents to Illawarra’s Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

“I definitely understand the importance of early literacy – how it can have a major impact,” she says. For Julie, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides an opportunity to bring books to families who might not otherwise be able to afford them, as well as building stronger family relationships.

“This program has brought the family together like you wouldn’t believe, the big siblings reading to the little ones. It’s great”

The program is also changing parental engagement in learning and education, something Julie believes is critical. “One mother said to me, ‘I’m going out to buy her a bookcase,’ which shows that the place of literature in that household has lifted. Changing the way that parents think about education is so important to changing the core issues arising in these communities.”

Children’s confidence and social skills are also improving thanks to the increased shared reading, which is critical in terms of starting school prepared. “Kids will be able to go to school and ask questions and not be afraid to start learning because they have the basic knowledge. Their parents will be more engaged in the learning process.”

For Julie, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a powerful way for the community to combat the social and economic disadvantage experienced by many local children.

“We are trying to bring them as far as we can before school starts. I’m hopeful that through early intervention and introduction of books that we are overcoming a proportion of the early disadvantage in education and getting them off to better start.”

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library supports Noogaleek’s existing community programs to improve early development outcomes.


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