A new literacy campaign aims to promote a love of reading in children and young people in out of home care.
Not-for-profit organisation Life Without Barriers is launching its campaign Hook Into Books for National Child Protection Week.
Life Without Barriers director of education Dale Murray said on average, children in contact with the child protection system were behind their peers in educational results by Grade 5.
If children haven't got access to literacy, they are significantly disadvantaged as they get older.Dale Murray, Life Without Barriers
"That gap tends to grow across time and by Year 9 they seem to be much further behind their peers in NAPLAN scores," he said.
"We are trying to disrupt that trajectory."
The number of five to 17-year-olds in out of home care in Australia has risen from 26,000 in June 2009 to 46,000 in June 2020.
Ninety-two per cent of children in out of home care are below the average reading level at age seven.
This year's theme for Child Protection Week, which runs from September 5 to 11, is 'every child, in every community, needs a fair go'.
The Hook Into Books campaign encourages carers, staff and young people to engage with literacy.
They are encouraged to upload de-identified photos of young people reading and to join a library, where restrictions allow.
"If children haven't got access to literacy, they are significantly disadvantaged as they get older," Mr Murray said.
Travelling suitcases full of books will be taken to residential care programs and offices.
Some of Australia's leading children's authors have signed on to support the campaign.
Mr Murray said children in out of home care could have significant gaps in their learning and have experienced complex trauma.
Watch the video from the Hook Into Books campaign below.
They may also have moved schools multiple times or had periods disengaged from school.
"Children who have experienced trauma can feel nervous about any challenges and it can be hard to concentrate at school and continue to learn," he said.
"We need to help schools to ensure there is a strong emphasis on scaffolding the learning for young people where there is a gap because of trauma they have experienced.
"If you enter your adult life without the ability to navigate the world through literacy, you are significantly disenfranchised."
Mr Murray said engagement in education was a protective factor for young people.
"Schools provide a very strong social space and are places of rhythm, routine and structure which is very important for young people to feel safe," he said.
"What happens in schools is a pathway out of what can often be trapping kids in poverty. It is absolutely essential young people are connected to school."
Seventy-five per cent of children in out of home care do not complete 12 years of school.
Visit www.lwb.org.au/ for more information on Hook Into Books.
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