Readiness for school image
Photographer: Prudence Upton
IMAGE SOURCE: Prudence Upton

Richard Flanagan’s very generous donation could not have come at a better time. The 2014 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) Report was released Wednesday 10 December and the results indicate that our work, with our focus on early literacy in remote communities, is absolutely essential.

This year’s NAPLAN results are disheartening. Not only is there little to no improvement shown in the Reading results amongst Indigenous school children nationally, the figures for children living in remote and very remote locations are just appalling. The report indicates that only two out of ten children in very remote Northern Territory are achieving at or above minimum standard in Reading in Year 3. This drops to only one out of ten by the time a child reaches Year 9.

WHY IS THIS?  There are many complex issues that impact on the results, and in most cases a combination of factors. These include issues of historical, health, social, and educational disadvantage. Even the simplest things, like quality reading materials and resources, items that we take for granted, are not present in many remote and very remote communities across Australia.

The philosophy of our Foundation focuses on the early years. We put the upmost importance on engaging young children in books at the earliest possible age, empowering the community to be the first teachers of literacy in their children’s lives, and recognising the importance of first language. Our Book Buzz program in Warburton is proving very effective and shows how providing young children (0-5 years old) with the right resources and in language, is a great start in developing pre-reading skills, much earlier than the schooling years. With over 15 books translated into first language, many babies and toddlers and their families in this community participate in shared reading each day. The purpose is to develop a love of reading early on, and to provide them with the pre-literacy skills they need in the schooling system.

We also provide access to quality new books through our Book Supply Program, where we gift book packs into more than 200 remote communities. Whilst out on our Field Trips, we have seen many Indigenous children enjoying the books our Foundation provides. It’s heartwarming to get testimonials on how much the communities value these free books and to see how excited the children are about choosing their own book to keep and read. One that they will enjoy over and over again.

Our work is only just starting and we have a long way to go in making a difference. The funds and awareness raised by Flanagan are invaluable. You can help too by donating to our Christmas Appeal.