Book Boxes bring Literacy to the Nathalia Learning Community

Early Years Literacy development for 0 to 8 years is one of the key areas of activity for the Nathalia Learning Community’s new Action Plan launched at a whole of community gathering in early May, in a real attempt to increase the literacy skills and ability of their children – Book Boxes is one of the great initiatives developed as part of this area.

The Nathalia Learning Community comprising Nathalia Primary School, St. Francis Primary School, St. Mary’s of the Angels Secondary College, Nathalia Secondary College, along with the early years services, have been working collaboratively since 2011 in the quest to deliver the best possible educational opportunities and outcomes for their community.

At the whole of community gathering in early May, that Nathalia Learning Community outlined their key areas of action for the coming twelve months, with a key focus on three identified areas:

  • A common instructional model and common approach to literacy teaching (High Reliability Teaching Literacy Practices) aimed at improving literacy learning across the four schools;
  • A Nathalia Learning Framework that engages the whole community in supporting the provision of learning, and enhance the aspirations of young people within their community;
  • A whole of community approach to improving literacy outcomes for 0-8 year olds.

Check out their Action Plan through the powerpoint:

Under their motto:

Maximising Opportunity through Partnership”

summarises precisely their intention:

“To ensure that young people within their community have the best possible start from the town’s education providers who work to develop needs based initiatives that are relevant, innovative and sustainable for their community’s needs and aspirations.”

Often, this means implementing initiatives that extend learning beyond their normal classroom bounds to ensure their young people have the best start possible.

Book Boxes – A Key Activity in Supporting Literacy Development

Book boxes can be found throughout the community- the one pictured above is in the local hospital.

It is from these underpinnings with a particular focus on increasing children’s levels of literacy that Nathalia’s new “Book Boxes” emerged., school data across the Nathalia Learning Community has shown a low level of student motivation and learning confidence, especially within literacy.

Considering this, the education leaders from the Learning Community recognised that parental involvement, with wider community support, was vital in turning this around.

So, the Nathalia Learning Community devised a plan that would enable the schools, parents, families and broader community to work together to support learning – especially in the area of literacy.

The National Research Council states that more than four in ten pre-schoolers, five in ten toddlers and six in ten babies are not read to regularly and yet, current research shows that children learn more in their first five years than at any other time of their life.

With this firmly in their minds, the Nathalia Learning Community decided that to achieve their 2017 goal of developing a whole of community approach to improving literacy outcomes for 0 to 8 year olds, a number of approaches needed to be established.

Community Book Boxes have been a key ‘initial vehicle’ to make this happen.

 The making, distribution and use of Book Boxes has been a community effort with the Nathalia Learning Community partnering with the local business sector to assist in the establishment and ongoing use, and promotion, of the Book Boxes.

Filled with quality second-hand books, the cost of the materials for the Book Boxes was covered by a local business and then constructed by the local Men’s Shed.  Further complimenting the Book Box initiative, the Local Shire provided a grant that enabled the community to purchase book bags, educational placemats and bookmarks along with associated informational materials for families of young children for whom the initiative is aimed at.

The Book Boxes have been placed in highly frequented community spaces, inclusive of the hospital, Maternal and Child Health Centre, the community meeting room and also the local recreational reserve.
The books within the Book Boxes are rotated on a regular basis. Using a roster system Nathalia Learning Community’s students take responsibility for the upkeep of the Book Boxes and currently, that responsibility lies with Grade 3/4 students who enthusiastically assume their role in promoting literacy across their community.
The Book Boxes are just one of the initiatives undertaken within the Nathalia Learning Community to address improving literacy standards for 0 to 8 year olds and demonstrates their commitment as a whole community to work together to ensure that Nathalia provides a range of opportunities for people to continue to learn in.

Gr. 3/4 student currently assist in the upkeep and management of the book boxes.

Supporting all of this, the Nathalia Learning Community, in partnership with its wider community, facilitates regular Community Reading Days that are designed to engage community organisations and local businesses in promoting and modelling reading which assists in not only literacy exposure and uptake but also in ensuring that pre-schoolers are ‘school ready’, and they have great literacy skills, for when their time comes to begin their formal school-based education, but that they enter school life with a strong literacy base.

Not to rest on their laurels, the Nathalia Learning Community will continue to address improving early literacy for 0 to 8 year olds by working with their wider community, including their local Maternal and Child Health nurse to promote the use of books within families via not only the book boxes, but also via traditional library services, good literacy apps and song.