Think back to when you were a kid. What was the book you loved – that you read a thousand times? Did you stay up late with a torch under the covers after you knew you were meant to be asleep? Those memories are often out of reach for children in out-of-home care, but we can do something about it.
Upon entering care, not only are children likely dealing with significant trauma, but they will also experience other barriers and disadvantage in areas such education which can have long lasting negative impacts on many aspects of their future. Reading and a love of books is where it can all start and all children, deserve to feel that joy.
There are close to 45,000 children in out-of-home care in Australia experiencing greater disruption to their education and are missing key developmental learning stages. They face significant risk of school disengagement and subsequent lower levels of earning potential and financial independence as they enter adulthood.
Studies have found an association in reading to children and the child’s subsequent reading skills, language skills and cognitive development. Positive education, at both primary and secondary level, is vital for children and young people in in out-of-home care to not only make their life better ‘now’ but also enhance their future life opportunities.
Life Without Barriers is recognising National Child Protection Week (5-11 September) and its theme “Every child, in every community, needs a fair go” by focusing on the right all children have to a quality education and for their educational experience to reflect their talents, personalities and potential.
Claire Robbs Life Without Barriers Chief Executive acknowledges the impact an engagement in learning can have. “Research continues to tell us that children in out-of-home care are struggling to reach national literacy and numeracy benchmarks, and are missing out on the joys of reading, writing and storytelling as a result,” she says.
This month, Life Without Barriers Education is launching “Hook Into Books”, a national literacy campaign for children and young people growing up in out-of-home care. The goal of which is to bring books and storytelling to children to enhance their literacy skills and encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning.
Ms Robbs says, “Hook into Books is a creative way of showing simple measures for our staff and carers to nurture learning through books and storytelling. We want to come together with children in care by sharing something we experienced ourselves as children in relation to books we loved or challenges we faced that we were able to overcome in relation to our own learning.”
The “Hook Into Books” campaign is significant to some of Australia’s most beloved Children’s authors also. Jackie French, Ursula Dubosarsky, Zoe Norton-Lodge, Corey White, Samantha Wheeler, Kathryn Apel, Michelle Worthington, Patrick Guest, Zanni Louise, Michael Gerard Bauer, Gary Lonesborough, Greg Dreise and Megan Daly are all ambassadors for the project.
Most significantly, it’s the carers and kinship carers and Life Without Barriers staff who are playing the most important role, in engaging children in a love of books. Dale Murray is Life Without Barriers Director of Education and chief architect of the Hook Into Books initiative, he says “whilst the physical bricks and mortar provision of a school is important – what is just as important is how we instil a love of learning through reading at home.
When a child is placed in care, Foster and kinship carers have a unique and crucial role to play in supporting children to engage with books and storytelling and by doing so help them stay connected to the importance of literacy – the foundation of all learning.”
So, this Child Protection Week, lets remind everyone about the joy of reading, writing, storytelling and sharing stories with children – because every child deserves a fair go.