9 September 2022

Free books for babies as part of International Literacy Day

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Libby Baker

Libby Baker has been involved with the ALEA for 11 years. Photo: Libby Baker.

Canberra mum Libby Baker has always been a firm supporter of early literacy in children.

As a mother-of-three, teacher and member of the Australian Literacy Educators Association (ALEA) ACT Local Council for the past 11 years, Libby believes the more children read from a young age, the better their literacy will be later in life.

“We know how important literacy and reading is now in the world based off the amount of literacy that we have around us every day,” she said.

“This comes from reading things on social media, to messages, to reading books and newspapers and online news.

“I really believe in that, which made me want to get behind the books for those initiatives that support early literacy in the first place.”

In conjunction with International Literacy Day (8 September), UNESCO and the Australian Literacy Educators Association (ALEA) has donated books to new-born babies at local hospitals around the capital.

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Libby said ‘Books for Babies’ began 38 years ago, in 1984, and has been a successful initiative that’s taken place each year since.

“It’s a celebration of International Literacy Day, which is a dedicated day to celebrate the literacy and the promotion of literacy in early years,” she said.

“The Australian Literacy Educators Association really believes that children’s first teachers are their parents, and we want to promote that beautiful connection of parents with babies. We [the association] do that by donating books and giving books to mums in hospitals around the ACT.

“This year, we went to places such as Canberra Collage to visit their Canberra Collage Carers Program, Roundabout Canberra, St John James Hospital, Queanbeyan and Calvary Hospital to donate books there to parents and their kids.”

Canberra College Cares storytime session with Shelly Unwin. Photo: Libby Baker.

Libby said in pre-COVID days, the association would visit the mums and see the babies, however now it’s more a dedicated delivery day to the hospitals.

“In more recent years, we connected with the Canberra College Carers Program and we’ve been visiting them for at least the last six years,” she said.

“This year to make things a little more special, we had a local Canberra author, Shelly Unwin join us.

“She had actually given us some of her books, Hello, Baby, as a part of the program and she came along to do a storytime with us at Canberra College.”

As well as giving out new books, Libby said the AELA had developed free learning modules for early literacy for parents.

“I think what’s beautiful is that all these books are donated by the AELA, and their generosity is helping promote such a wonderful thing” she said.

“I’ve been a part of the AELA community for 11 years now and it’s been really special.

“That community partnership and bond has just continued growing.”

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This event was about encouraging parents to share the joy of books, spoken language and literacy as early as possible with their baby.

Libby said ALEA celebrates parents, as a child’s first and most important teacher, and recognises the essential role they play in the early development of their children’s literacy.

“As well as talking and reading to young children, parents are encouraged to tell stories and be a role model by letting children join in, as they see adults read and write,” she said.

“Furthermore, ALEA acknowledges the essential role parents play as part of the teaching and learning team, during their child’s formative years of schooling.

“The Books for Babies initiative aligns closely to this strategy to promote early learning.”

To find out more about Books for Babies and other programs and initiatives the Australian Literacy Educators Association runs, visit their website.

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