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Parent should be ‘first teacher’: United Way

Australian Government data has revealed that 22 per cent of children begin school “developmentally vulnerable”, United Way Australia has stated.

This means children starting school sometimes aren’t up to scratch with their language and cognitive skills, communication or general knowledge. With the school term beginning soon, United Way Australia has shared various ways to equip children with a better start to school.

United Way Australia communications manager Janita Suter explained that there is a large amount of evidence demonstrating that reading, singing, talking and rhyming with children are critical activities for building their language and communications skills. In order to reduce the literacy gap, Suter recommends parents initiate these activities with children in their early years.

“Reading aloud to children frequently is one of the most effective ways to promote early literacy development among young children” Suter said. “Reading aloud helps stimulate brain development and reading to children at age 4 and 5 has positive and significant effects on cognitive skills.”

Many parents believe it’s the role of schools to teach children to read; however, United Way stated that parents should be a child’s “first teacher”. Suter explained that literacy acquisition “can no longer be thought of as the exclusive responsibility of schools” but rather should be the responsibility of “families, communities and health and educational professionals”.

Children are at risk of falling behind and remaining behind if they aren’t equipped with foundational skills such as knowing how to hold a book and identify some letters in their early years.

“The evidence is crystal clear now,” the chief executive of United Way Australia, Kevin Robbie, said. “The first five years of life are the most critical for a child’s brain development. Many Australian communities have a cycle of low literacy and disadvantage. Parents who struggle with reading themselves are less likely to buy their child books, or take them to a library or kinder. Sadly, some children start school not knowing how to ‘operate’ a book.”

Robbie said: “The number of children starting school unprepared is a national disgrace. We’ve got to start reading regularly with kids early in life to stop the cycle of disadvantage in Australia.

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