Queensland families with young and yet to be born children received some great news today, with the State Government announcement that the successful First 5 Forever early literacy initiative will continue. A commitment of $20 million over four years was delivered in the 2018/19 budget.
First 5 Forever is a family literacy initiative that is delivered through the dynamic network of more than 320 Queensland public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres.
Research tells us the early years matter. With up to 90 per cent of brain development happening in the first five years of life it is vital we encourage all families to participate in their child’s future.
But early literacy shouldn’t be dull. It shouldn’t just be for children who sit quietly, legs crossed on the carpet – in fact it need not involve carpet at all.
Some of the most memorable First 5 Forever activities take place under trees, in dinghies, at the beach or even at the local hardware store. Imaginative, accessible programming is the key to success.
They are truly inclusive, welcoming everyone in the village – bouncing babies, energetic toddlers, mums, dads, brothers and sisters, foster and step parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles.
In a few short years, First 5 Forever has proven engaging, inclusive programs actually works, lifting the fortunes of everyone – not just children but also the communities in which they live.
In 2017, over 99 per cent of Queensland’s population was covered by 62 participating councils and attendances spiked with 907,199 recorded (up 67%).
There are no signs of this momentum slowing down with program being embraced by families and library staff across Queensland from Yarrabah to Roma and hundreds of places in between.
With more than 320 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres in Queensland, the possibilities for First 5 Forever are as limitless as a child’s imagination.
The initiative is flexible and lateral in its approach to making reading, talking, singing and playing a valued part of raising a child.
Some libraries have turned their children’s area into a connector for communities. A bright and happy place where dads, young parents and families from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds get to meet, sing and play together.
In the small mining town of Collinsville the swimming pool proved the perfect place to learn about a naughty dinosaur, and frog puppets were used to engage babies in singing nursery rhymes and water activities.
First 5 Forever partners, Logan Together, piloted pop-up libraries at three family restaurants. Colourful cushions, balloons and fun activities helped promote the benefits of early literacy in a relaxed, casual and family-friendly environment.
The last two years showed exponential growth in these kinds of outreach events, extending the reach of libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres in a meaningful and practical way, introducing some families to the world of libraries for the very first time.
The initiative is a great confidence builder for families, supporting them to be their child’s first and most important educator.
It also helps families gain a fresh perspective on the services and opportunities on offer at their constantly evolving local libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres.
Library staff too, get a chance to advance their knowledge of early childhood development through well-received training and workshops.
As we embark on future with First 5 Forever, we are excited to capitalise on the significant momentum behind this initiative.