NSW Libraries new children's literacy campaign
The Sector > Research > Allied Fields > NSW Libraries to spearhead new campaign and tackle early childhood literacy crisis

NSW Libraries to spearhead new campaign and tackle early childhood literacy crisis

by Freya Lucas

March 23, 2023
Young boy reading in library

The New South Wales Public Libraries Association (NSW PLA) will drive a new campaign designed to tackle the early childhood literacy crisis in NSW.  


Birth to Five – Read and Thrive aims to address statistics shared in a recent independent report which found that reading literacy rates in NSW were amongst the poorest in the country, and significant numbers of children in NSW were developmentally vulnerable.


“Poor literacy in early childhood can create learning difficulties that last a lifetime,” explained NSW PLA President Romola Hollywood, outlining NSW PLA’s position that literacy is a fundamental right for all children, and early childhood literacy is critical for children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.


“Early childhood literacy rates in NSW are some of the lowest in Australia, and our children are falling further behind,” she added, noting that NSW “was facing a crisis in early childhood literacy” that would alarm parents were the statistics more well known.


NSW is behind the ACT, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia when it comes to reading literacy performance, and with the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data showing over 20 per cent of preschool-aged children in NSW are developmentally vulnerable, and 24 per cent of children are vulnerable or at-risk regarding communication skills, the impact of these statistics on children’s performance at school is already visible. 


“Children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, those from language backgrounds other than English and children from low -socio-economic backgrounds are even more vulnerable and face an even greater risk of developing literacy and learning difficulties which may disadvantage them in education and employment for their lifetimes,” Ms Hollywood added.


“This is a significant problem for the children and families of our state, which requires urgent action from the next NSW Government.”


Birth to Five – Read and Thrive calls on all political parties at the NSW election to commit to addressing the crisis in early childhood literacy, and aims to achieve three key objectives that would be invaluable to improving early childhood literacy in NSW, namely: 

  1. A coordinated and consistent approach – for addressing early childhood literacy and evaluating successful outcomes in NSW.
  2. Training and resources – a fund for a dedicated early childhood literacy program and training for library staff to implement it.
  3. A public awareness program – a dedicated public awareness program to inform the public about early childhood literacy’s critical role in children’s social, emotional and cognitive development and the role that caregivers, public libraries and communities may play in improving outcomes.


“With a clear strategy, focused action and proper funding, the next NSW Government can turn this early childhood literacy crisis around for our children’s futures,” Ms Hollywood said.


“We’ve seen the success of similar programs in other Australian states and overseas, and I’m confident that with the right commitment from the government, we can achieve similar success here in NSW.”


Visit the Birth to Five – Read and Thrive’ campaign website here. The full research report on early literacy in NSW may be found here.

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