For the fourth year in a row, the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre is delivering it’s ‘Read Bear’ Program, which has proven effective in increasing children’s reading skills, language skills, self-confidence and well-being.
Each child in the program (aged 6 to 7) receives a hand-made, donated Read Bear with a nametag to personalise. The bears are brought home and the children are encouraged to read to their new ‘friend’ every weeknight. The bears provide children with motivation to read and the opportunity for self-directed learning. The initiative also aims to encourage parents and siblings to be involved in the reading process alongside the child at home.
One local parent whose child is a part of the program described the difference the bear made to her daughter’s excitement “Alice was excited to read to her bear last night as per our usual routine to read at bedtime. I heard Alice chatting in the lounge room alone this morning and found her reading to her bear. She has never voluntarily picked up a book to read before today. Big thanks to the Neighbourhood Centre for the initiative.”
Another shared the Read Bear “had been a good prompt to encourage reading. e.g. ‘bear needs a story now’ ” and many echoed the excitement their children felt about reading to their own bear.
This year, the almost 400 hand-knitted bears were donated by the women from Artslink Fraser Coast to the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre (HBNC) to support the program.
Initially the Read Bears Program was developed as a partnership between HBNC and the Red Cross in 2019, running as a pilot with three local state primary schools over 10 weeks. Since it began, the program has seen much success with the Bears being read to over 20,092 times in total. Teachers and parents have expressed the positive impact the program has had on the young people, who are eager to read to their bears.
“One parent said that their daughter loved reading to her bear at bedtime. Another commented that it had given her son a sense of responsibility by having to read to his bear each day” a community member commented.
The Read Bears Program is another example of the innovative, community-led initiatives provided by Neighbourhood and Community Centres in Queensland.