Better Beginnings

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

Learning to read before they can walk, it's the unique program teaching tiny tots years before, they begin school. Here at the State Library, Sue North runs the Better Beginnings Program. Today, librarian Sam has a full class, "the kids love it, the parents love it, its just such a thrill to see the joy on their faces" From reading to rhyming forget the wiggles this is the hottest ticket in town. "Things like rhyming helps children to predict text helps them learn to read when they go to school"

Thomas Calabro picked up his first book as a bub in fact he was on the front cover. One of the very first babies in the better beginnings program Dad Dominic says its given him a great start. "I actually like to sit there and listen to him read to me ... it makes me proud to see how far he's come allong"

Sue says "at the State Library we were hearing stories about children starting school having never held a book before" Now the program aimed at parents makes sure every new born bub in the state goes home with the specially dsigned board book. "We quiet often hear from parents they felt silly reading to their tiny baby, but very soon they see theyre child respond and know it's worthwhile. Children read to have 3 times the vocabulary than children who are not read to by the time they are 5 and start school"

Caroline Barret - Pugh and a team of early childhood researchers from Edith Cowan University have been evaluating the program since it began five years ago. "We contacted 300 mums before they recieved the better beginnings program, then we surveyed them again every year for 3 years" What they found was startling before the program only 14% of parents planned to read to their babies. After the program 85% of parents surveyed, now regularly read to bub. Caroline says "so clearly the program had a huge impact on that" and more importantly, reading remains a part of their routine.

Caroline says "at the end of our four years of research we found almost 90% of our mums told us they increased their frequency of reading" Experts believe it's the best building block any parent can give their child. Sue says "as a parent reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do for literacy skills so they become good readers and they do well at school" The better beginnings program is the only one of it's kind in the country putting WA's littlies in the lead.

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