IWC RISES TO LOW LITERACY CHALLENGE WITH PLAY & LEARN

AROUND 300 primary school-age children have sung, danced, drawn and enjoyed storytelling sessions at four ground-breaking Play & Learn sessions this year – and while it is all great fun there has been a real result.

Because, in a region where poor literacy is acknowledged as a major social issue, every Play & Learn activity has been focused on building language skills, literacy and brain development.

IWC Director Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian said: "IWC is an Aboriginal community-run organisation committed to Reconciliation in Action. We work alongside our communities to deliver a whole-of-person approach to overcoming barriers to breaking the cycle of disadvantage.

"There is no doubt that in our region the issue of poor literacy is a major impediment to many children, and adults, achieving their potential. IWC is working with families to empower them to take control of their health, their wellbeing and their untapped potential.”

Mum-of-two Tracy Iki, of Coral Cove, has been to two of the four sessions … and after coming to the September one could not wait to recommend it to her friends.

"I think it’s really good,” she said, as son Joshua, 7, and Tayanna, 6, joined almost 50 other primary school-age children at the Play & Learn Christmas session on 14 December.

"I like that it’s got a lot of activities, and after coming to the last session I was watching the internet to see when the next one was, and invited some friends to come along too.”

But as the parents and children do crafts, enjoy song and stories, and interactive games, there is something pivotal happening – a learning experience that could open doors for youngsters and parents alike.

The Play & Learn sessions, which have been held in every major school holiday period this year, were designed to provide an easy gateway for parents and carers to step into a fun environment where storytelling, dance, music and craft provides a pathway to early learning development.

The sessions are delivered through the IWC’s Families Wellbeing program, which provides child development and parenting support. IWC is a non-government, community-run and charitable organisation focused on empowering families and individuals around offering health, wellbeing, family and community services to all in the Bundaberg and Wide Bay / Burnett regions.

IWC Health Worker Neswaya Little, who works within the Families’ Wellbeing program, said the aim had been to empower parents and carers to guide their primary age children as they got to grips with reading and writing – and the initiative had been a big success.

"Each of the four sessions has run over three hours, delivered free of charge and has been open to all in the community,” said Mrs Little. "We have found that the inclusive approach taken by IWC across all of its programs works very well in encouraging parents and carers to find out how much fun it can be to share reading and craft time with your children.”

Gaye McWilliams, Bundaberg Regional Libraries’ First 5 Forever Officer, has played an active role in the delivery of the sessions.

"Gaye is a captivating storyteller, and the way she is able to share the magic of reading with children is amazing,” said Mrs Little. "We very much appreciate all she has contributed over the past year.

"All of these Play & Learn sessions are open to all children and their parents or carers, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and as with all of our services are delivered in a culturally responsive way,”

"This is a way of showing children that learning can be fun, and that they can enjoy reading any type of work – fiction or non-fiction – and building their overall literacy skills.”