Free books encourage children to read

A new program aims to improve the literacy skills of preschool children in western Sydney at no cost to families.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library was launched in February during the Australian leg of the country singer’s Blue Smoke tour.

It delivers one free, age-appropriate book by mail each month to registered families with children aged up to five.

Senior lecturer in early childhood development at the University of Western Sydney, Joanne Orlando, said the mode of delivery would add to the excitement of reading.

‘‘We all get a thrill when we get a package in the mail,’’ she said.

‘‘That, in itself, is a great incentive for a child to want to open a book and probably for a parent to share in the child’s excitement and want to read to the child.

‘‘I imagine the child would be onto their parent straight away.

Dr Orlando said reading age-appropriate books and other things such as leaflets and shop signage was important for school readiness.

‘‘Children have to become familiar with how our language works when it’s written and that comes from being read to or reading themselves,’’ she said.

‘‘‘They’ll understand how sentences are put together, the different purposes of writing and all of those are very important to becoming a good reader and writer yourself.’’

Dr Orlando said reading the same book over and over helped.

‘‘It sounds a little boring, but if they read the one book five or six times, and if it’s been read to them once or twice already, they’ll remember how the story goes and start to ... identify particular words in the text.

‘‘A parent could record the reading of the book so the child could play it over and over again.

‘‘That’s also a very good and very cheap way of assisting the child with learning to read.’’

Details: unitedway.com.au.

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