Many years ago, I was principal of a country school. It bothered me that too many of our children had trouble learning to read and write. It bothered me into action.
In my school we made a huge effort. Best practice. It was a blitz. With great results, right?
Well, no. We had results, but they were not great. For all our efforts, the results were — as a teacher I hate admitting this — disappointing. This got me thinking. Are some children just doomed? Or were we missing something? I looked wider. What I found changed everything.
Study after study showed that a child’s ability to learn to read and write at school is set in the first five years of life. The first three years, in fact. School was too late. And what’s needed in those early years? Simple. Yet I could see that it wasn’t happening in many families.
Spend time with children every day, from birth — talking, singing, rhyming, reading — and you’ll prepare them to read and write at school. It’s from this insight that Paint the Town REaD was born.
‘Painting the town red’ carries the notion of celebration, of ‘doing’ the town, of saturating it with excitement and enthusiasm. That’s the literacy culture we want to generate. We pull together community groups, agencies and businesses, and we inspire them to integrate this culture into everything they do with (and as) families. And to keep inventing the most fun and creative ways to do so.
It’s a growing, nationwide network of people whose influence can change thousands of lives, long term.
Michelle Calderbank was presented with WA’s Shire of Yilgarn Australia Day Active Citizenship Award for her significant contribution to supporting the Yilgarn community.
Michelle set up Paint the Yligarn REaD in her own time to provide the next generation of children in Southern Cross with the best possible chance to reach their potential. Michelle is a high school English teacher and witnesses firsthand the significant challenges for young people when they have not had the important early literacy foundational experiences. A long-time resident in Southern Cross, Michelle had the connections and the respect in the community to engage everyone in supporting and spreading the PTTR message. And this included her high school students who eagerly took on the catering role at the launch event, and gained catering qualifications in the process.
Michelle has a number of other voluntary roles in the community such as running the Young Entertainers program for the past 12 years and active involvement in sporting clubs.
Paint the Town REaD groups across Australia are off and running, and especially Librarians, who are including children under school age in their Summer Reading Challenges at their local libraries. It’s a great way to give children starting school that final boost, and for younger children to model from older siblings is always a super opportunity. And you might even bump into your local PTTR mascot there as well.
Thank you to everyone who has made this year so special by increasing the opportunities for children to enjoy the wonder of being read and sung with.
From our amazing local community groups – now 50+ over five Australian states, through to funders like the St George Foundation, the AMP Foundation, the Eureka Foundation, the Commonwealth Bank, private donors and the many many probono supporters.
Here are two of them – wonderful woman, Roxanne Kiely (song writer) and Anne Donnelly (author). Roxanne, ran a Songwriting Workshop for Early Educators in Paint Cumberland REaD NSW, and Anne visited a combined playgroup in Mt Druitt NSW, where she grew up, to encourage young mums to reach for the stars.
Paint Doonside Read, whose partners include Wentwest’s Thrive@5, Relationships Australia, Crawford Public School, Community Health’s Child and Family Nurses, Blacktown City Libraries and Dr Michael Fasher, launched their Books for Babies project this month. Nursing staff, who have received training from PTTR Ltd, and Blacktown Library about the whys and hows of reading with your baby from birth, will be sharing books and information with all new babies born in Doonside this year – and their families!
The books were purchased from generous donations by the The Funding Network and the AMP Foundation. Thank you!
And for a completely serendipitous moment, See Me Move – the main book to be given to babies, is written by Sascha Hutchinson, a champion in one of our newest communities, Paint the Westside REaD, in Adelaide.
On a near freezing day last month, just about everyone in Parkes turned out for the Reading Day with Friends, commemorating 20 years since Paint Parkes REaD began as Birth to Kindergarten. Children from birth were in attendance, through to High School students singing in shops and on the streets to children, shops were decorated in red, libraries took over a local club’s auditorium to act out a story, a local farmer sang and read with children in the Office Supplies store, carrier pigeons, and even Elvis spread the message of read with your baby from birth. Grandfathers spoke about it in the local pub, and young mums and their babies drove over an hour to get there.
Pietta Bridges, Reading Day Coordinator said that the day was a culmination of a few months of activities across children’s services, including pen pal writing, creating a friendship chain, and learning about being friends.
Today we celebrate and remember the importance of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.
Thank you to the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aunties and Uncles and workers from across Australia, who are leading us to Paint Australia REaD, Black and Yellow so that our children will arrive at school loving books and ready to learn.
Tracey and Charlie from NSW’s Paint Shoalhaven REaD, Black and Yellow with Karrak, Paint Kwinana REaD WA’s black cockatoo Mascot. Karrak is holding Shoalhaven’s magical reading egg.
Welcome to Paint Mackay REaD. Their magical REaDing Egg arrived at the Mackay Library, last Thursday. It was welcomed by a big group of children and their parents, supported by the Mayor, Cr Greg Williamson and Cr Ayril Paton.
As children read with the egg, their parents help them put their name on it. We can’t wait to meet the brush turkey which will hatch out! And how do we know it is a brush turkey? Because there have been two wonderful books written about the egg already by Pam Gargett and Carly St Clair, and beautifully illustrated by students from Slade Point State School.