Early literacy playgroups may be among the key elements in helping disadvantaged kids catch up in the areas of literacy and social interaction. Studies and programs in places as far-flung as Salinas, California, and Sydney, Australia, are paving the way in showing just how helpful these programs can be.
The playgroups in Salinas, which are based at the local libraries, are funded by a $26,500 grant and reach out to a community that is negatively impacted by significant gang violence.
Studies have shown that early intervention in the areas of education and community connection can help young children grow up to avoid getting involved with gangs and violence.
The playgroups bring together local children for structured play with their parents and other kids. The children spend time doing a variety of activities including listening to stories and singing.
The playgroup time also involves free play and provides snacks. Kids attending the playgroups benefit through forging strong bonds with their parents while playing. They learn how to share and how to get along with other children, and they get plenty of chances to develop their creativity along with their gross and fine motor skills. All the playgroups are led by trained library staff.
Similar early literacy playgroups in Sydney, Australia are also reaching out to disadvantaged kids who might otherwise not be connected to the kinds of activities that can help them achieve early literacy. Some of these children don’t speak English as a native language, and the playgroups give them a safe space to play in their native languages with other kids and their parents.
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A focus on socializing, singing and other group activities let the children become comfortable with learning in a group. It also introduces them to various forms of literacy. There are over 330 playgroups currently in existence, which receive $3.7 million in funding from Families NSW. The playgroups are proving useful in engaging disadvantaged children and connecting them to the larger communities.These sorts of programs encourage literacy just by bringing young people into libraries.