- UTS languages researchers say community-based supported playgroups are an effective strategy to reach and engage disadvantaged children and families across NSW
- In a study carried out with with Pacific communities in Sydney, they found such playgroups can promote the development of early literacies through the use of language, learning through play and social interactions
The availability of community-based supported playgroups can be an effective way of enhancing children's emergent literacies according to the results of a new study with Pacific communities in south-eastern Sydney.
Languages researchers from the University of Technology, Sydney have looked at the benefits of an organised community program that focuses on children's development of language, learning through play and their social interactions.
"Developing children's early literacies is so important in the years before they start school, yet a significant proportion of children starting school in NSW have not accessed any formal early childhood programs," said study co-author Dr Liam Morgan.
"Children from Pacific families are among some of our more disadvantaged communities, who often find it impossible to access formal child care programs.
"Unless we are able to reach and engage these families through strategies such as community-based supported playgroups, many children will continue to miss out and not experience any programs or activities that could assist with the development of their early literacies.
"Supported playgroups provide a 'safe in-between space' for children to use their home language, socialise, play, talk, sing and interact with other children, their parents, carers and playgroup workers.
"These are valuable early childhood spaces, because most offer a structured weekly program of play, craft and group-time activities that include a focus on learning through play and engaging with various literacies. Generally they are led by a child care trained staff member," Dr Morgan said.
He said that for children who attend regularly, supported playgroups, such as those featured in the Pacific communities study, have proved to be an effective strategy to reach and engage disadvantaged children and families across NSW. Families NSW, a multi-agency initiative, has provided around $3.7 million annually to enable more than 330 community-based supported playgroups to operate across the state.
The study's report, Strengthening Early Literacies: Pacific Communities in Supported Playgroups is being launched tomorrow (Friday 18 November). The research was led by Professor Alastair Pennycook of the Languages Program at UTS with co-authors Dr Morgan and Andrew Chodkiewicz.
The study was made possible by a UTS Partnership Grant and two key research partners, Penny Church from Families NSW, Metro Central, Community Services, and Phil Lambert, Director, Sydney Region, NSW Department of Education and Communities. It also involved two community based groups - Botany Family & Children's Centre’s (Kristy Greenleees) Tongan group and Integricare’s (Renee Gardiner) mixed Maori and Tongan group - and the Tamariki Time Maori playgroup led by two volunteers Dee and Ardie Ngakuru.