A brand-new initiative is dedicated to improving your child’s literacy and cognitive skills – and it’s totally free for you to participate in.
The ‘First Five Forever’ grant was developed by the state government back in 2015, after the results of the Australian Early Development Census indicated that a large number of Queensland children were weak in their literacy and cognitive domains when starting school.
The human brain develops at its fastest during the first five years of life, and research shows that simple things like talking, reading, singing and playing with children from birth have positive impacts that can last a lifetime.
That’s why this grant – $20 million in total – is so important: it sees vital funding delivered to a network of more than 320 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres across the state, allowing the programs that help children develop these important skills to thrive.
“The initiative’s aim is to provide strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children aged zero to five-years-old,” says Alison Kemp, coordinator of Library Customer Services. “It connects families to the information, resources and support they need to build the best foundation for their child’s future language and literacy development.”
Each public library across the state utilises the funding differently, working with their communities to ensure that their programs meet local needs as best they can. For Gold Coast City Libraries, this means partnering with government and non-government organisations to extent their reach, and prioritising programs that support disadvantaged and vulnerable families and increase parent efficacy as their child’s first and most important teacher of language development.
“We have received feedback from parents on the wide range of benefits and outcomes they have observed as a result of participating in First Five Forever activities,” says Alison. “Parents have commented on the importance of the information shared with them by library staff including how to use books with babies, and the why and how of singing, talking, and reading with their child.”
The observed benefits of the First Five Forever initiative range from new social connections to improved self-confidence on how to share books, tell stories, play and talk to their children in age-appropriate ways.
But why is the library the perfect place for a program like this?
“Local libraries are the community hub and connect into every aspect of community, as well as being a quiet place to relax and connect,” says Alison. “They offer exciting programs of activities and events designed to inspire, entertain and inform, and have a wide range of resources and services to support families and children’s language and literacy development.”
To find out how you can get involved with the First Five Forever program at your local library, head to www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/programs/first-5-forever.