Playgroup program equips kids with literacy skills needed for school

Playgroup program equips kids with literacy skills needed for school

A playgroup program aimed at developing early literacy skills is changing the lives of children in the Liverpool area south-west of Sydney.

The most recent Australian Early Development Census has found that nearly a quarter of children starting school in the Liverpool area were considered “developmentally vulnerable,” meaning they struggled to learn.

The Paint Liverpool REaD (PLR) program, which is part of the national Paint the Town REaD initiative, was launched to change that.

“Half the children who were not ready to learn in kindergarten never ended up catching up in later years,” said Barbie Bates, executive director of Paint the Town REaD, told ABC News in an interview.

“They realised that by the time the child reaches kindergarten, the horse has already bolted. Children need to be read, talked to, and sung to from birth.”

According to the program’s Facebook page, PLR is a community-based early literacy program that encourages families to read with their children every day from birth. It added that this strategy helps in the literacy development of children, so by the time they start schooling, they are ready to learn how to read and write.

Apart from reading, each session includes dancing, singing, painting, and other creative activities. The program also focuses on multilingualism.

Paola Escudero, a linguist and professor at Western Sydney University, and one of the program’s collaborators, told ABC News that one of the biggest benefits of PLR was its “insistence on multilingualism.”

“Connecting language to symbols helps with brain development and what is later called ‘decoding’. It helps with grammar, numeracy, and writing,” she said.

Professor Escudero also said that foreign-born parents should be proud to pass on their mother language to their children.

“You are doing your children a favour,” she told ABC News. “You're teaching them empathy and diversity, which is what this country should be built on.”

PLR also has another initiative called book boxes. Under this project, boxes have been placed in waiting rooms and reception areas in various venues throughout Liverpool, which the group hopes will encourage families and children to engage in reading and sharing books.