Early literacy in the west

Megan Scully and Kylie Webb from the State Library with author Mem Fox 

Did you hear about the Western Downs Language to Literacy Conference, held in May this year? On a cool weekend back in autumn, early childhood professionals from near and far, representing libraries, early childhood centres, schools, health and other organisations came to Dalby to learn, share and discuss all things early literacy.

A motivated group of professionals, the Western Downs Early Years Reference Group put a jam-packed program together featuring keynote speakers, panel discussions and a range of practical workshops with plenty of opportunities to network and share ideas over a hot cup of coffee.

Well known author and early literacy advocate Mem Fox opened the conference. Her presentation was both informative and entertaining as she shared her thoughts on ‘why reading to young children changes their lives’. She demonstrated to the audience (requiring lots of active participation) that sharing stories must be fun and told anecdotes about her “delicious delight of reading little books to little children”.

A ticking clock set the scene for the next key note presentation, presented by Dr Alice Brown from the University of Southern Queensland. She presented research around early brain development using a ticking clock analogy (and an actual ticking clock) to demonstrate the importance of the early years. She highlighted how quickly time passes and reaffirmed the role both families and professionals play in early childhood development.

Play and an adult’s role was the focus of the final key note speaker, Professor Julie Dunn from Griffith University. Her presentation focussed on what adults need to do to be effective in actively supporting and participating in young children’s dramatic play.

Across the two days, many concurrent workshops focussing on the Talk, Read, Sing, Play message were delivered by a range of professionals.

Kylie Webb and Megan Scully from the First 5 Forever team at the State Library of Queensland delivered two workshops. The power of props was a jam packed hour where the huge variety of props you can use when working with babies, toddlers and young children in your library service was discussed. Following positive feedback, this workshop will be delivered again as a webinar as part of the First 5 Forever webinar series on September 6th. Click here for more information and to register. The second workshop, ‘Supercharge your storytime’, was an interactive 3 hour workshop, combining the latest research in early language and literacy with practical tips and ideas to further enhance how we share stories with young children and their families.

A big thank you to the Western Downs Early Years Reference Group and Western Downs Libraries for a successful conference and for continuing the focus on early years language and literacy.