Our Early Years activities relate to two of the Education Benalla Program objectives:
- Every child in Benalla starts school ready to learn
- Literacy and numeracy levels measurably improve
Parents are Educators
Parents are children’s first, and potentially most important, educators who can partner with schools and the community to give children their greatest chance of success. Tomorrow Today works with many agencies to offer fun, interactive and free activities for families with babies and young children.
PEEP – Parents Early Education Partnership – helps parents develop their parenting skills and increases their understanding of their children’s development. PEEP groups are for parents/carers and their children, from birth to kindergarten.
Research highlights the long-term benefits gained by children who are given extra help in the early years at school. Research also tells us that trained community volunteers can provide that help. With that in mind, we have drawn from several early literacy programs to design Benalla’s own Reading Buddies program. We recruit and train volunteer Reading Buddies to work one-on-one in classrooms with local Foundation Year to Grade Two children.
By the end of Grade One, the expected reading level is 15 to 20. The children the Education Benalla Program works with may have a reading level of only five to eight. However, the special Reading Buddies relationships improve childrens’ reading and writing, reward both the Buddies and the students and are proving to be just as important as the literacy skills. In some cases school attendance has improved because children are looking forward to spending time with their Reading Buddy. The Reading Buddies program is offered at the Waller and Avon campuses of Benalla P-12 College, St. Joseph’s Primary and the Australian Christian College Hume, Benalla Campus. Are you interested in becoming a Reading Buddy? You can find out more here or discuss it with our Volunteer Coordinator at our office in Cecily Court, Benalla.
We work in partnership with Benalla Health and Benalla Rural City to offer parenting programs that include Bringing Up Great Kids and Real Men Make Great Dads. We are part of a Benalla Early Years Network working party that is expanding education to improve Benalla parenting skills and practices. Guest speakers are regularly invited to PEEP sessions to talk about topics of interest like ‘fussy eaters’. PEEP also equips parents to more effectively support their children’s literacy development.
Songs, rhymes and stories are a key part of every PEEP session and professionals – including a speech pathologist and language specialist – regularly visit PEEP. Let’s Read, Benalla teaches parents the best way to read to young children. Parents as Partners in Learning helps parents of Foundation Year students support their child’s literacy development in a way that also complements what the child is learning at school. In 2014 we worked with Benalla P-12 College to develop and present workshops that increased the ability of parents at home to improve their child’s speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. Those parents gained knowledge and became confident, active partners in their children’s education.
A volunteer Reading Buddy working one-on-one in the classroom.
Let’s Read, Benalla
In 2014 Tomorrow Today and its partners in the Benalla Early Years Network challenged the Benalla community to read 10,000 stories in three months to babies and children up to age 8. They surpassed the goal by reading 11,727 stories. In 2015 an amazing 46,235 stories were read to Benalla’s young children during the five month literacy challenge!
Reading develops young childrens’ skills and relationships and these, in turn, positively affect how well children perform at school.
Reading stories together fosters closer relationships, develops children’s early language and communication skills, and improves their ability to concentrate and think logically – regardless of the parents’ income, level of education and cultural background. Grandparents, other relatives, carers and friends also gain when they encourage children to experience the joy of sharing books. Year 9 students have participated in Let’s Read by sharing stories with children at a local childcare centre – this benefits both age groups and skills up the school students who will be the parents of tomorrow. The Let’s Read, Benalla Challenge will be on again in mid-2016. Further details, including the NEW TARGET, will be available soon.
The Education Benalla Program runs across the whole Benalla community. We conduct activities on our own and with partners, and Tomorrow Today also supports other groups and agencies with the same goals. We have given grants to buy play equipment and educational resources, to playgroups in Benalla, Tatong and Winton, three local kindergartens, the Toy Library and Waminda Community House. The grants are funded locally thanks to the income generated by Tomorrow Today’s Community Fund.