Radio research project boosting littlies’ literacy

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With more than one in four Australian children starting school considered to be developmentally vulnerable, an innovative UniSA research project promoting early literacy is just what the teacher ordered.

Learning to love reading time is so important and statistics show children who don’t connect with books and stories are at risk of slipping into long term disadvantage.

Poor adult literacy is linked to high unemployment, lower earnings, low self-esteem, high rates of welfare dependency and substance abuse.

Developed in partnership with United Way South Australia, the United We Read Radio Story-time program is providing free books for parents to share with their children, supported by a regular story-time radio show to help boost literacy levels.

Long-time community radio presenter/producer and UniSA Journalism Lecturer, Dr Heather Anderson, says the shows are part of a broader research project exploring how radio can add value to the United We Read early intervention book reading program currently underway in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

“The benefits of radio in encouraging and facilitating community engagement and individual empowerment are well established, as are the benefits of reading to children from a young age,” Dr Anderson says.

“What we’re investigating in this research is how radio can further engage children in their love of reading and assist parents’ involvement, regardless of their own levels of literacy.

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“While the internet radio station, UniCast, which operates out of the School of Communications, International Studies and Languages at UniSA, is not a community radio station as such, it recently ran a short series with young people of refugee experience which provided on-air training over a period of three months so this is UniCast’s second community engagement project.”

The family story-time is being broadcast several times a week online at and at PBA-FM 89.5 until the end of April with books being read including tales by Mem Fox and Tim Winton and Margaret Wild’s ‘There’s a sea in my bedroom’.

United Way South Australia Chief Executive, Greg Franks, is enthusiastic about the United We Read Radio Story-time pilot.

“Research shows that if a child is read to daily from birth and there are many books in the home those children will not only be ready for school but get better NAPLAN results,” Mr Franks says.

“We’ve seen an astonishing increase in the amount of reading in homes to children under five in our Elizabeth program and we hope the Radio Story-time pilot will help increase home reading and better prepare children for school.”

The United We Read Radio Story Time program is explicitly tied to books so that families are physically engaging with books while listening and any problems for those who may be vision-impaired are also overcome.

“This is a pilot project and the participant families have already been recruited but anyone is welcome to listen and enjoy the books,” Dr Anderson says.

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“The study participants are already participating in the United We Read program in Elizabeth which involves the monthly delivery of a free, high-quality, age-appropriate book chosen by experts in childhood education, as well as a local reading group.

“The United We Read program is open to children younger than five currently living in Elizabeth Downs or Elizabeth Park but we announce each week which book is being read, so it’s possible for anyone to borrow the books in advance from a library and listen to the stories.

“Shared reading is the most commonly cited home-based literacy activity influencing a child’s reading development but parents with poor literacy skills are less likely to buy books, visit libraries or read with their children.

“The role of early literacy development in changing lives cannot be underestimated so the hope is that this radio show and our research will support the development of cost-effective strategies that produce higher reading results in school.”

United We Read Radio Story Time Sessions and Books:

 Tuesday / Thursday at 10.05 am on PBA-FM 89.7
 Thursday at 11 am / Sunday at 4 pm UNICast
 Week Starting Sun February 28  “Miss Lily’s Fabulous Pink Feather Boa” by Margaret Wild
 Week Starting Sun March 6  “Big Rain Coming” by Katrina Germein AND “Kissed by the Moon” by Alison Lester
 Week Starting Sun March 13  “John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat” by Jenny Wagner
 Week Starting Sun March 20  “Jesse” by Tim Winton
 Week Starting Sun March 27  “A Nice Walk in the Jungle” by Nan Bodsworth
 Week Starting Sun April 3  “Tiddalick: The frog who caused a flood” byRobert Roennfeldt
 Week Starting Sun April 10  “Me and You” by Genevieve Cote AND “A Giraffe in the Bath” by Mem Fox
 Week Starting Sun April 17  “Big Red Hen and the Little Lost Egg” by Margaret Wild


(Source: University of South Australia)

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Date Created: March 5, 2016