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Wimmera Health Care Group and Uniting Wimmera have joined forces to improve literacy and reading skills across the region.

As part of Wimmera Health Care Group’s ‘social connection’ focus, the health promotion team partnered with Uniting Wimmera to introduce ‘ABC & Beyond – the Hanen Program for Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings’.

The program is from The Hanen Centre, Canada, and is being provided for the first time in the region. The program aims to provide hands on training to Uniting Wimmera early childhood educators to improve ‘pre-literacy’ skills in young children before school entry.

Uniting Wimmera early childhood educators from Horsham, Dimboola, Nhill, Jeparit, and Rainbow will attend seven evening training sessions with Wimmera Health Care Group Speech Pathologist Melinda Brilliant, as well as onsite coaching with use of the program strategies.

Wimmera Health Care Group, Speech Pathologist and ‘ABC & Beyond’ program leader, Melinda Brilliant said it was clear there was a need to increase the focus on preparing young children to learn to read and write before they start school.

"Emergent literacy starts as young as three years of age. The ABC & Beyond program uses the latest research in early literacy and adapts it into practical strategies for educators to use in childcare or kindergarten settings," Ms Brilliant said.

"We welcome the opportunity to partner with Uniting Wimmera to provide this program for children in our region."

Uniting Wimmera’s early learning and early prevention co-ordinator Katrina Scimone said educators were excited about the new program and what it would deliver for children.

"Initial training has already resulted in new activities within our centres", she said.

"We have seen the poor outcomes for children with low literacy so it is crucial that we are to engaging children in reading at an early age.

"We’re thrilled to be a part of the program and the children and families who attend our services will be the real winners."

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