Reigniting a love of reading
The joys of reading and listening to stories is often a prominent feature of nostalgic childhood memories.
Storytelling unlocks a world of imagination and possibility, and in many instances inspires and shapes a person’s identity.
“Literacy is fundamental to productive participation in society,” says Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn, Senior Lecturer in the School of Education in the UTS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
“The local and wider community benefits when young people are empowered, their voices and experiences honoured and when opportunities are created for positive participation.”
These beliefs, and her passion for education, inspired Kimberley to create the ‘Picture Books Project’.
The idea for the project came to fruition in 2007 when former Head Teacher of Key College, Min Bonwick, and Kimberley informally discussed the importance of read-aloud experiences for children’s literacy development.
Kimberley is a volunteer at Key College, a small ‘second chance’ alternative school run by Youth Off The Streets, which offers young people an opportunity to re-engage in education to complete Year 10.
Most of the students at Key College have a background of family dysfunction, with interrupted schooling and chaotic lives, drug use and periods of homelessness already part of their young life experience.*
“Very few [of the Key College students] have positive recollections of having been read to as children. Very few associate reading with joy or success. A number of the students have weak literacy skills, and require additional support for reading and writing tasks. A relatively high number of Key College students also become parents themselves as young adults,” Kimberley explained.
The ‘Picture Books Project’ has helped build confidence in reading for the students of the College and has exposed them once again, or maybe even for the first time, to the joys of reading and storytelling.
While the program has changed and adapted over time, at its core are two main activities: modelled and shared reading aloud of a wide range of picture books with simple and complex themes for enjoyment and to support the development of critical literacy skills and the writing and creation of an original picture book, a copy of which is made and kept by the school and one which is kept by each student.
“In the first few years of the project, between 2007 and 2013, I had my own preschool-aged children who accompanied me in delivering the program,” Kimberley said.
“During these years the Key College students would individually practice reading a picture book, then read it aloud to my children. They would sometimes then do a craft or cooking activity together, providing the students with the experience of enjoyable time that built from reading with young children.”
In 2011, Kimberley arranged for the students to host the regular story time for preschoolers at the local Glebe Library. The students would read aloud books they had authored themselves to small groups of preschoolers and their parents. They then hosted the craft activity and a picnic morning tea.
Since 2015, the students have been using a picture book creation app, resulting in a highly professional product that they can take immense pride in.
The development of the ‘Picture Books Project’ has had a positive effect not only for the students of Key College, but the community as a whole.
For the students, it has built their confidence in reading aloud, reintroduced them to the magic of storytelling, and has also equipped them with a broader range of skills including interpersonal and future parenting skills.
Greater connections to local community have also been built and the project has built students’ knowledge of freely accessible resources provided in local public libraries.
“The joy of reading is at the heart of this project, and I hope that this continues to be ignited and grown,” Kimberley said.
“I’ve worked with different staff and many students now, and each time, the project has evolved in new and wonderful ways. There’s a framework but lots of room for flexibility which keeps it dynamic and exciting for me to be a part of.”