Community close-up: First 5 Forever

We’ll also regularly take a close-up look at Logan Together community partners. This month we are focussing on First 5 Forever – a program teaching parents and carers about the role they play as their children’s first educators.

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We’ve known for some time that reading to children from a very young age helps to stimulate their brains and lays the groundwork for improved literacy in later years. But research is now showing us that up to 90% of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years, making every interaction with parents and carers a perfect opportunity for learning.

First 5 Forever is a Government funded community program aimed at supporting parents and carers in their roles as their children’s first and most important teachers. The program is thriving in Logan with a range of free sessions at Logan City Libraries and other community spaces, sparking a joy of learning in babies and children across the City.

Marnie Julin is Logan City Council’s First 5 Forever co-ordinator and she says the Logan community have embraced the program.

“We have spent time listening to the community and have developed a First 5 Forever program that really is unique to Logan,” she said.

“Our involvement with the community has shown us that many people may not be aware of library services available to them, so we have taken the program to them to spread the word.”

Since First 5 Forever started in Logan in 2015, Marnie has seen an increase in awareness of both the program and the important message it has for parents and carers.

“It really is rewarding to see parents in our spaces or at events acknowledging how important these first years are and how much hard work they are willing to put in to make a difference for their kids,” she said.

Far from being just about books, Marnie said First 5 Forever learning opportunities could be found all through everyday life and could be sensory, verbal or visual.

“If you or your child don’t warm to reading, you can try singing and even talking with your babies and children – it all stimulates their literary pathways and sparks a desire to learn and understand. Many of our community members have a more oral tradition of storytelling and this sits perfectly with our aim of engaging children’s brains and sharing moments of connection with the important adults in their lives.”

In Logan, Marnie and her team have also been working with other partners such as Queensland Health to take a multifaceted approach to improving literacy foundations for children. By increasing awareness of the program among allied health professionals, families can be directed to the program as part of a management approach for speech difficulties or delays.

“Our partnerships are invaluable as they offer another stream for families to find out about First 5 Forever, particularly if they were not previously accessing library services.”

The First 5 Forever program has Government funding until the end of 2018 but Marnie believes the effects of the program will be felt long after.

“The benefits of this approach are very sustainable – once parents and carers take on this mind set they find learning opportunities everywhere and their children thrive, with their growing brains getting what they need from the people they love.”

To find out more about the First 5 Forever approach visit http://first5forever.org.au/ . To see what’s happening in your local Logan City Library visit https://loganlibraries.org/explore/audience-kids/first-five-forever/.

Marnie is also happy to share her enthusiasm for the program direct and can be reached at marnie.julin@logan.qld.gov.au

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