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Early Years personal development

Why developing literacy in the early years is critical for educational

Glad Spring 201127During this national week of celebration of Australia’s young people, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the impact of the early years on ensuring all young people are indeed able to celebrate.

It cannot be stressed highly enough how important the first five to six years of a child’s life are on their future life outcomes. A number of key milestones occur during these years and form important foundations for future learning and development. Critical to this is children’s early participation in reading activities, where they learn how to articulate and pronounce words; and develop the skills to express themselves through oral and written language.

In my 17 years of working with disengaged and trauma-affected young people, I have frequently found a common denominator – low levels of literacy. Whether due to intergenerational poverty, low parental literacy levels and social disadvantage, domestic violence, the impact of alcohol and other drugs in the home, or trauma as a result of natural disasters, war and neglect – the effects of these low childhood literacy, if not addressed, can last a lifetime..

I am fortunate to have a leadership role in a large government school in Melbourne’s outer north-west where I can put my interests to work. The P-12 school has a population of just under 2, 000 students, with a significant number of refugees, families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, socially and economically disadvantaged families, and a disproportionally high number of children involved in child protection agencies. With oversight of our Trauma Unit; management of the College’s wellbeing services; and responsibility for a range of interventions including an Early Intervention in Reading Program and a Spelling Mastery Program, I am acutely aware of the importance of early intervention in ensuring children have the skills they need to succeed in school, and in later life.

Both my personal experience and national statistics support the thesis that the earlier you intervene, the greater the likelihood of positive outcomes for the child. I see how poor literacy impacts on students’ overall confidence to engage in educational activities. I see how without appropriate investment in targeted reading and spelling programs, speech pathology, and where required therapeutic interventions, children and adolescents that commence school with low levels of literacy go on to have poorer levels of educational attainment; leave school earlier; and have fewer post-school education and employment options. I see the positive life impact of early intervention – better engagement, improved results, greater study and work options.

JB & Oscar Bell (2) Pre wedding

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