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United Way Blog

Turning the Page on Early Childhood Literacy

Research shows that reading skills at a young age are fundamental to success in school, work and life. According to a study by the American Educational Research Association, a student who can’t read by third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school than a child who can read proficiently by that time. The benefits of early literacy isn’t lost on United Way Australia who, along with other local United Ways, are helping children discover the joy of reading through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Having access to books is something many families may take for granted. But in disadvantaged communities around the world, it’s not so easy. And that can create roadblocks for learning. In Australia, for example, 22 percent of kids are starting school “developmentally vulnerable.” Committed to giving children the tools they need to learn and grow, United Way is using the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to improve early learning outcomes. The program also plays a role in identifying early developmental issues and getting children the support they need.

“The Imagination Library has been great because it gets parents involved at an early age by spending time with (their kids) and identifying needs,” says Terri Ridgeway, Save the Children’s Regional Coordinator and an Imagination Library Coordinator in Queensland. “Children are learning, listening, sitting still … all the social skills that are imperative for early learning in school and later in life.”

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a community-based program that provides children (ages 0-5) with free home-delivered books, and parents and caregivers with literacy resources, each month. Started in 1996 by country musician and author, Dolly Parton, more than 70 million books have been distributed globally to date, including 150,000+ books to 7,000+ kids across Australia since 2013. United Way Australia believes every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential. Through this program, they’re turning the page on early childhood learning.

Learn more about United Way Australia’s early childhood initiatives, or share your experience with the program in the comments section below!

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