On Indigenous Literacy Day, the importance of the role of early childhood educators is highlighted. It is here in the early years that the building blocks of Literacy begin.
Much like any language learning, there is a lot of work that goes on before the first real word is uttered. The EYLF explains that “literacy develops from birth as humans strive to express feelings, exchange thoughts and connect with others through gestures, sounds and language. From infancy, children use sound, gesture and body language to communicate their needs and feelings”.
It is the same for learning to read, interpret pictures, understand signs and symbols and to be able to utilise information in a range of formats to learn and improve our personal situation.
So why Is literacy so important? And why a special day for Indigenous literacy?
Significantly lower literacy rates
One of the sad statistics that Australia faces is that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples are far more likely to suffer significantly lower literacy rates than others within the Australian society.
Literacy is an enabler. It allows us to make sense of written, visual and spoken texts…things we take for granted such as books, newspapers, social media, timetables, instructions, signs, maps, television and radio programs and even conversations require some levels of literacy. We all are aware of the Closing the Gap reports that outline disparity for First Nations peoples in education, life expectancy and health outcomes.
Perhaps some of the answers to these complex problems lie in developing higher levels of literacy within our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. This seems an outrageous suggestion, but consider this: Adults who are unable to read experience;
- lower self-esteem (often feeling shame fear, and powerlessness);
- lower ability to obtain and understand information of all types
- poorer health outcomes
- less financial security
- lower life expectancy
- poorer educational outcomes
- higher unemployment
- increased rates of crime.
How can we solve this crisis?
So, what roles can we as Early Childhood educators play in solving this crisis? In our early years' education programs, we know that partnerships with families are important and this bares true in the research for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children.
In programs where Indigenous perspectives, culture and ways of learning were included and close involvement of the family and community are encouraged, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children achieved higher rates of early literacy competency (Grant, 2001). This not only reinforces the importance of close links with family and communities but leverages the social capital that children bring from their families as vital in ensuring literacy learning.
The push down from primary school to include formal alphabet and phonic training has not been shown to improve emergent literacy, however, a holistic approach in the early childhood curriculum where every day is rich with stories, discussions, songs, rhymes, books, signs and symbols and each learning space offers multiple opportunities to experience a wide range of media has been very successful in increasing pre-literacy learning providing all children with opportunities to build their skills on a firm foundation.
Informed contributors in their communities
At Gowrie, our vision is “that children are active participants in society, their voices are heard, and they are empowered to make a positive contribution in their community and make a difference in the world”.
For us to achieve this we must get the literacy piece right for all children. Literacy enables individuals to be informed contributors in their communities, it empowers them to know and understand their rights and responsibilities and allows them to receive and decipher information. Literacy opens the door to education and offers life opportunities that could never otherwise be imagined!
So on a shared Indigenous Literacy day and Educators Day 2022, let’s make sure the relationships we form with families leverage the social capital that they bring to support literacy learning, and let’s make sure that we are injecting rich opportunities for children to learn about all aspects of literacy within every learning space.
Let’s include Indigenous perspectives throughout our curriculum...
...and let’s celebrate the amazing work our educators do in providing rich literacy learning opportunities for all our children.
Article Published 6th September 2022
About the Author
Donna Morley has worked in the Early Childhood Sector for 40 years in a range of roles: Early Childhood teacher, Director, Academic, TAFE Teacher, Practicum supervisor, Mentor, Reconciliation Action Plan Champion,and Educational Leader. In 2010 Donna led a team of educators, through practitioner research and transformative change, to achieve the ACECQA Excellent Rating in 2018. Donna believes in lifelong learning, and views children as active participants and learners from birth, she aims to ignite learners of all ages with a passion for exploration, discovery and lifelong learning.
ACECQA The educators Guide to the EYLF. Sourced online: https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/acecqa/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_guide_to_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia_2.pdf
DEEWR (2009) Early Years learning framework: Being Belonging Becoming sourced online: https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf
DSS Australian Government(2016) Increased literacy scores for Indigenous children in schools using the cross-curriculum priority. Sourced online: https://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/longitudinal-studies/research-and-publications/research-summary-no4-2015-increased-literacy-scores-for-indigenous-children-in-schools-using-the-cross-curriculum-priority
Grant, M. (2001) ‘Building Bridges’ and Indigenous literacy: Learning from Indigenous families. Sourced online : https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2304/ciec.2001.2.1.11
Topics: Teaching Strategies and Practice