A new Ballarat Foundation reading program at Stockland Wendouree will promote the importance of reading in early childhood years.
The philanthropic organisation is beginning Ballarat Reads Storytime Pop Up sessions at the shopping centre on Tuesday that will include songs, storytime and activities.
Storytime program leader Ricci McGreevy said the shopping centre location and program was designed to be accessible to all.
"We hope the Ballarat Reads Storytime Pop Up will help promote reading as a valuable activity to help not just cognitive skills like communication, literacy, learning the alphabet and the sounds, but also it is a really nice bonding time and a nice time to connect with your kids," she said.
Children, with their parents, can attend the sessions from 10.30am to 12pm near the playground area outside Coles on Tuesday's during the school term.
Different books from the Ballarat Reads Imagination Library will be read each week, followed by activities and games with a literacy based theme such as rhyming words, phonics and letters of the alphabet.
We know that putting a hard book in the hands of young children has positive outcomes for when they get to school and gives them confidence and ability to read by being more familiar with books.Matt Jenkins, Ballarat Foundation
Activities for the children are designed to promote creativity, enhance communication skills, develop fine motor skills and to foster a love of reading.
"Kids learn through play so there is going to be lots of play activities and they all have a literacy focus, but are really tactile and hands on," Ms McGreevy said.
"Hopefully the children with their parents will be able to learn some really fun ways we can include literacy into everyday play. It doesn't have to be sitting down writing into books."
Research shows that children who are read to from an early age, have increased cognitive development, language skills and overall academic performance.
Reading one on one with a child also helps with bonding and emotional development.
Ms McGreevy, a former primary school teacher, said reading helped children gain a better understanding of their world.
"Reading to your children is really important to build on their vocabulary and communication skills but they can also learn other things like empathy and determination," she said.
"They can also learn about everyday things from the books, like how in the Very Hungry Caterpillar a caterpillar becomes a butterfly."
Parents must present during the Storytime sessions and are encouraged to engage with their children by helping them complete activities and reading stories together.
Helpful tips and take away ideas will also help parents to continue to read at home with their children.
The new Storytime Pop Up program is an extension of the Ballarat Foundation's Ballarat Reads program.
A book is delivered to the homes of children aged zero to five-years-old each month through the program.
Around 300 children are currently enrolled.
Ballarat Reads expanded to support the Yuille Park Young Parents Program last year.
Families in the young parents program have been enrolled in Ballarat Reads, and workshops held at the school's Delacombe site helped support the young mothers to understand the importance of spending time reading with their children.
Ballarat Foundation chief executive Matt Jenkins told The Courier in November the Ballarat Reads program was formed to ensure every young child had the opportunity to touch, feel, read books as early as they could.
"And it allows connective time to sit down and read with family together," he said.
"We know that putting a hard book in the hands of young children has positive outcomes for when they get to school and gives them confidence and ability to read by being more familiar with books."
Ms McGreevy said the convenience of the book delivery meant families who may not usually go to the library could build their own library at home.
"Kids don't mind if you read the same book a hundred times. The repeatedness is actually good for them. It is part of their learning," she said.
"One of the first things they learn when reading books is the text doesn't change, so when they are first reading they think it is a different story every time. Then over time they realise it is writing and the person is reading it to them."
Ballarat Reads Storytime Pop Up sessions at Stockland Wendouree will begin on Tuesday February 18 from 10.30am.
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