Fewer than 20% of children in the developing world have access to early childhood care and education services.
Yet there is overwhelming evidence that early childhood education can play a vital part in improving children’s life chances, making transition to primary school easier and time spent there more productive.
Parents are children’s first educators, and there is growing support for community-based parenting education as a way to improve the quality of children’s learning before they start school.
Preparing very young children for school
In Rwanda, the Philippines and Cambodia, Save the Children is implementing First Read, an innovative programme designed to improve literacy in very young children and help get them ready to begin school.
From their earliest moments, children begin developing the skills that are the foundation for later reading and writing.
First Read works across four pillars – book development, book gifting, family learning and community action – to support parents in helping their children develop these crucial skills.
Pillar One: Developing books for young children
Access to high-quality children’s books in the local language is essential if young children are to develop their pre-reading skills. But in developing countries, books for very young children are rare.
First Read provides training and capacity building to local illustrators, authors and publishers, then purchases the books that are published as a result of our training.
Pillar Two: Giving books to children and their families
First Read then gives the books to families with young children so that those children can benefit from easy access to high-quality books in their local language, at home.
Pillar Three: Supporting families to learn together
We give the parents of young children the opportunity to come together to learn new skills that they can use to support their children’s early literacy. We help them to incorporate talking, singing, counting and sharing books into their day-to-day interactions with their children.
Pillar Four: Helping communities close the early childhood services gap
Parents report significant improvements in their children’s early learning as a result of these interventions. This
is often the start of a virtuous circle in which parents become excited by the possibility of improving their children’s learning opportunities and keen to do even more.
Working with parents to improve children’s lives
First Read works with parents to design and implement further services for their young children, including playgroups, story sessions and – where demand exists and resources are available – even formal, centre-based early childhood programmes.
In our experience, supporting the development of a vibrant local industry,for children’s books and providing families with guidance on using them effectively offers a simple and scalable way to give young children in developing countries better access to learning opportunities.
That way, when they start school, they are ready to get the best out of it.