Country Profile: Australia
English (Creole English widely used in Tasmania)
|Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years)|
|Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2011 – 2012, Australian Bureau of Statistics)|
|Programme Title||Reading Together|
|Implementing Organization||State Library of Tasmania (Tasmanian Education Department)|
|Language of Instruction||Anglais|
|Date of Inception||2004|
Context and Background
Tasmania is an island State within the Australian Federation. As in mainland Australia, the State of Tasmania is obliged by the Education Act (1994) to provide free and compulsory public education to all persons below the age of 15. However, across the Australian Federation, Tasmania has the lowest adult literacy rates as well as the lowest school retention rates for young students after year 10. In addition, many children are not exposed to Early Childhood Education (ECE) and therefore commence their primary education with limited literacy skills. In order to address these challenges, the Tasmanian Education Department – through the Adult and Community Education Sector (ACES) and the State Library – initiated the Reading Together Literacy Programme (RTLP) in 2004. After being piloted in four locations, the programme grew rapidly and is currently being implemented at 22 centres across the State.
The Reading Together Programme (RTLP)
The RTLP is an intergenerational literacy programme that targets socially disadvantaged families and in particular, parents or care-givers with children aged between 3 and 4 years (i.e. pre-school children). Accordingly, the programme combines aspects of ECE and adult education in order to address the distinctive literacy needs of the targeted participants.
The programme is based on the underlying principle that the learners and particularly children’s ability to effectively master literacy skills relies on:
- reading aloud (interpersonal reading) on a regular basis;
- progressive learning of the alphabet;
- the development of phonemic awareness through rhymes, song and games; and
- the development of sound – symbol relationships.
Aims and Objectives
The programme has five clear aims.
- Create learning opportunities for parents, care-givers and their children in order to combat illiteracy in the State.
- Nurture a culture of reading and learning within families.
- Empower parents and care-givers with appropriate literacy skills in order to enable them to effectively nurture the educational and psychosocial development of their children.
- Create ECE opportunities for all children in order to enhance their school performance as well as to improve the school retention rates for young students.
- Raise public awareness on the importance of literacy and education as a tool for socio-economic empowerment and development.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
The RTLP consists of two-hour weekly family sessions conducted by qualified ECE and adult education teachers over a period of three school terms. The teachers provide literacy skills training assistance to parents and their pre-school children through the use of a variety of interpersonal and participatory teaching-learning methods (such as songs, games, story telling and discussions) and various learning aides (picture books, local newspaper and magazine articles, arts and crafts). Furthermore, learning activities are usually tailored to children’s levels of psychosocial development. These teaching strategies are intended to use the learners’ everyday life experiences as the basis of learning and thus to promote and sustain their interest in the programme.
In addition, parents also receive specialized training or mentorship in appropriate ECE practices in order to enable them to effectively support their children’s reading and literacy development through home or family-based teaching-learning activities. Adult participants are also allowed to borrow books for home-based family learning.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Internal evaluation of the programme is undertaken by both professional teachers and adult participants. This occurs at two distinctive levels:
- Informal evaluation: teachers are encouraged to hold ongoing and open discussions with adult participants in order to gauge and incorporate their views and aspirations in the programme. Informal discussions also allows teachers to assess the impact or lack thereof of the programme on individual participants,
- Formal evaluation: the programme has developed feedback forms which allow participants to evaluate the programme anonymously. Questions addressed by the feedback forms include:
- How does your child feel about attending the Reading Together programme activities?
- What parts of the session do you think they enjoy most?
- Since they began attending Reading Together what changes have you noticed in regard to your child’s competence the following areas: Books and Stories, Nursery Rhymes and the Alphabet?
- How do you feel about the Reading Together Sessions?
- What aspects of the programme do you feel are most valuable?
The programme has created learning opportunities for many families in Tasmania. Currently, the programme benefits more than 175 adults and 200 children per year.
Feedback received from individual participants and schools indicate that the RTLP is having a positive effect on learners and their families. Significantly, many kindergarten and pre-school teachers report that RTLP child-graduates have greater reading capacity and are therefore able to easily master new literacy skills than their classmates who never participated in the programme. Reports from kindergarten and preschool teachers further indicate that former RTLP participants often have more advanced interpersonal skills and are more enthusiastic to participate in learning activities than their peers. Hence, the provision of appropriate literacy training to children in their formative years has a long-term effect on their entire educational performance.
The programme has also empowered parents to play a critical role in the psychosocial development of their children as well as the development of their communities. In particular, parents who attend RTLP classes reported being better able to assist their children with their school work than before. At the personal level, parents also gained literacy skills which enhanced their confidence and self-esteem.
One of the major challenges in the implementation of the RTLP arises from the difficulties of engaging and encouraging adults with limited literacy skills to participate in the programme, as many may consider their situation as a normal aspect of life. In most such cases, the ability of the teacher to develop a relationship with the individual potential participants plays a critical role in sustaining their motivation in attending learning sessions.
Although funding remains one of the major constraints limiting the effective implementation of the RTLP, the programme has received political support from the State as well as from political parties. The Tasmanian State Government pledged to fund the programme until 2010 at a rate of $150,000 per year in recurrent funding through the «Tasmania: A State of Learning» programme. Additionally, the Tasmanian Labour Party has made commitments to provide a total of $400,000 to the RTP until 2012 under its «Learning for Life» educational policy.
Equally important, over the years, the State Library has also established strong functional relationships with various committed stakeholders who could ensure the sustainability of the programme in the long-term. These include members of the community, child health care centres, kindergartens and pre-schools.
The following are critical factors which contribute to the success of family literacy programmes:
- Engagement of professional teachers.
- Learning activities are tailored to participants’ (both children and adults) level of literacy development.
- Teachers establish strong functional and professional relationships with learners and other local stakeholders.
- Programme activities are based on the learners’ life experiences and also address their distinctive needs.
- The individually designed programmes have a well-established structure and routine with which children become familiar with, in order to increase their potential for mastering the intended skills.
Mr Hugh Fielding
Senior Project Officer Adult and Family Literacy
Tasmanian Department of Education 91 Murray Street, Hobart,
GPO Box 169
Phone: +61 3 62 33 3634
Fax: +61 3 62 31 0927
Email contact: User: hugh.fielding
Host: (at) education.tas.gov.au
Web site: http://www.education.tas.gov.au/