The research reported in this article was presented in an online Rogano session at the 7th Rural and Remote Health Science Symposium in May 2020. In addition, an online survey was provided to all participants in order to gather feedback and expert advice. This online format provided further support to the researchers for the study design.
The Kindy Let’s Play 2 Write evidence informed program was developed by occupational therapy educators and students at Western Australian Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) and piloted across Kindergarten classes at two schools in Karratha in 2019. Successful transition from home to kindergarten is an important milestone for children and families and is predictive of long-term academic achievement. In the pre-school years the development of pre-writing skills (the foundational skills children need to produce legible handwriting), promotes development of reading and literacy. Examples of pre-writing skills include holding a pencil or crayon, drawing shapes, talking and supported reading.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more than twice as likely as other children to be developmentally vulnerable at transition to school. The Pilbara’s Aboriginal population make up 14% of the total population in this very remote area in Western Australia.
This culturally appropriate program was developed in consultation with various stakeholders including clinical and educational experts and a local Ngarluma Aboriginal Elder. An evaluation of the pilot program with school staff reported that children’s skills were improved and teachers’ ability to help children develop pre-writing skills was also enhanced. The development of a home-program and the conversion of the program to an electronic format in light of COVID 19 were some of the recommendations made.
In 2020 the program has been further refined to include a separate home program and an online version. The extended program will roll out in Pilbara schools from term 1 2021. Teachers and education assistants at all participating schools will be trained in its use. Parents and carers will receive home packs that include resources such as simple reader books and beginner pencils.
Feedback from the experts who completed the Rogano survey support an action research study design using mixed methodology to continue to build evidence for the program. The survey feedback also supported two cycles of action research, which would allow the researchers to cyclically continue to review and improve the program.
Overall, the responses from the survey have been most helpful in re-enforcing our research design ideas, as we plan to implement the program in 2021 and evaluate it at two time-points in 2021. We were also offered some valuable advice with regards to small group yarning with families prior to the individual interviews.
As families and schools implement the program, we envisage that children will transition better from home to school and demonstrate improvements in early literacy with the resultant improved general learning outcomes. The play-based program design is informed by the best available evidence including the Kindergarten Curriculum guidelines based on the National Early Years Learning Framework which has a strong focus on successful transition to school and the involvement of families in children’s learning.
It is the intention of this project to drive the development of a regional approach to promoting early literacy for children in rural and remote locations. Some funding for this project has been received from the Occupational Therapy Australia Research Foundation and Fortescue Community Grants.
We look forward to reporting on the outcomes of the Kindy Let’s Play 2 Write program at the next Rural and Remote Health Science Symposium.
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