In a Far North Queensland early learning and parenting centre, books from ILF’s Book Supply program are helping toddlers and pre-schoolers to expand their vocabulary and learn some literacy readiness skills for when they start at the local state school.
At the Kuunchi Kakana (Families Together) Centre in the remote community of Lockhart River, 9 hours’ drive north of Cooktown, a playgroup for 0 to 5 year-olds runs four mornings a week.
Its structured program is based on the Montessori philosophy and aims to help the youngsters develop self-help skills and independence. It caters for 34 families, and on average 10 children attend the centre each day.
Kuunchi Kakana has been ordering books from ILF every year since 2013. A changing selection of these are always on display in the centre’s book corner for parents and children to use as they like.
Director of Kuunchi Kakana, Helene Cleveringa, says the babies and toddlers really love the touch and feel books which enable multi-sensory learning.
And while there’s a regular group story time as well as one-on-one reading sessions, often the children will choose a book themselves and ask one of the educators or a parent to read it to them.
Helene and her assistants make sure there’s always one copy of every book they order from ILF available in the centre. The others are distributed among homes in the community.
“This encourages reading with their parents and they are learning a love of books,” Helene says.
Each child also receives a book when it’s their birthday. On Indigenous Literacy Day they also are gifted a book to take home. And when the centre breaks for the long summer holidays everyone gets a book then too!
“Sometimes when the children take home a book they want their parents to read it to them over and over again.”
The centre also lends books to families. Packages which include a book, some ideas for reading it with the little ones and some suggested related activities are delivered to homes in the community by the early childhood educators. After a week, the books are returned, making them available to other families.
Reading together is a great bonding experience for parent and child, Helene says.
“Families will discuss the books after reading them, and therefore more vocabulary is learned. They are exposed to words every time they are read to. Even when the books are about numbers or colours, their vocabulary gets bigger and bigger, which in turn helps them towards reading themselves … And the more words they are exposed to, the better their language skills too.”
While the youngsters at Kuunchi Kakana get excited when new books are put out on display each week, at times they will become “fascinated with one book and want it read over and over to them for a month.”
One three-year-old so loves the picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle) he asks for it to be read to him up to three times a day. And he proudly goes around showing the book to all his friends!
“Parents really enjoy the one-on-one time reading with their children. And the children love the books. We are really grateful.”
- Posted 28 September, 2021