Transforming practice through research: Evaluating the Better Beginnings family literacy programme
Place of Publication
London, United Kingdom
Rankin, C., & Brock, A.
Centre for Research in Early Childhood Education
Libraries play a vital and unique role in supporting and improving the literacy levels of the communities they serve. Libraries are regarded as trusted community places that are freely available, supporting lifelong learning across the ages and contributing to the social benefit of the broader community (Krolak, 2005; Hillenbrand, 2005; Scott, 2011). In a 2013 US study, parents perceived libraries as being important and safe places for their children, cultivating within them a love of books and reading and providing information and resources not always available at home (Miller et al., 2013).
International research demonstrates the impact of low literacy on an individual’s life chances, with strong links between poor literacy skills, lower educational attainment, lower earnings, poorer health and poorer social outcomes (Hartley and Hoyne, 2006). What is also widely recognized is that the most effective and efficient way to address these issues is from the very beginning of life (Heckman and Masterov, 2005).
From its launch in 2005 to the present, Better Beginnings, an initiative of the State Library of Western Australia, has grown to be one of the most extensive and successful family literacy programmes in Australia. Delivered through public libraries and community health centres throughout Western Australia, this universal programme is designed to provide positive early literacy experiences for all Western Australian families with young children aged from birth to three.
Dynamic and ever-evolving, Better Beginnings makes connections – between parents and children, families and libraries, state government and local councils, health and education services, and between research and practice. Edith Cowan University has conducted an independent, longitudinal evaluation of the programme since its inception, which has proved crucial not only to demonstrating its effectiveness but also, equally importantly, in identifying new directions and areas of need.