Words grow Minds program expands

READING MATTERS: Early Years Taskforce chair Kate Ellis and Raising Literacy Australia CEO Elizabeth Davis launched the campaign in Mount Gambier/ Berrin last year. Picture: File

After launching in Mount Gambier/ Berrin last year the Words Grow Minds campaign will be rolled out across the state to help give South Australian children the best start to life.

The program was piloted here in October 2022 by the Early Years Taskforce to combat poor literacy rates among children.

Following the success of the campaign locally, and later in Whyalla, it will now be rolled out across South Australia as recommended by the Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care handed down by Royal Commissioner Julia Gillard last month.

Early Years Taskforce chair Kate Ellis said the campaign would change South Australian children’s lives for the better.

“We cannot ignore the fact that South Australian children’s development is behind the national average before they even start school,” she said.

“The research is clear, with up to 85 per cent of brain development occurring in a child’s first three years, increasing positive interactions with young children will improve outcomes throughout their entire lives.”

Words Grow Minds provides tools, advice and resources to parents and carers to increase interactions with their baby through talking, reading, singing and playing – with research showing these things make a significant difference to brain development.

It shows families that all they need to support their children’s growth is their time, attention and imagination, and empowers them with activities and tips to try out at home and in their community.

Minister for Education, Training and Skills Blair Boyer said early intervention before a child starts school, went a long way to support social and emotional wellbeing, as well as cognitive and language skills.

“The Words Grow Minds campaign goes straight to the heart of how families can help babies and young children develop through simple interactions that benefit the whole community,” he said.

“Getting the early years right can make the biggest difference to a child’s life – that’s why we’re making these investments.”

Premier Peter Malinauskas said this $4 million investment was part of the biggest reform to early childhood education South Australia had ever seen.

“All South Australian children deserve the best start in life, and reading to kids is fundamentally important,” he said.

“It’s only through these investments and a focus on the early years that we will see real change and reform for the better of generations to come.”

This announcement also comes as the state government has committed to continued funding of nearly $1 million to Raising Literacy Australia for the ongoing production and distribution of packs of books for newborns.

This will enable 21,000 ‘baby book packs’ to be distributed to South Australian families to help support the foundational numeracy and literacy development of children from birth.

Mr Boyer said reading these books to children made a big impact.

“Providing families with baby and preschool book packs ensures more families read regularly with their child which makes a big difference to their literacy and numeracy as they grow up,” he said.