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A new research project from Edith Cowan University (ECU) is hoping to use text messages to support parents as their child’s first teacher by helping build literacy skills.

ECU researchers will send text messages to parents and caregivers of kindergarten aged children, who sign up to the study, with simple, practical tips and activities that support early reading.

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The free Kindytxt program has been developed in partnership with kindergarten teachers and local libraries to support parents, caregivers and children in developing early literacy skills.

Lead researchers from ECU’s School of Education Professor Caroline Barratt-Pugh, Associate Professor Lennie Barblett, Associate Professor Nicola Johnson, Dr. Susan Hill and Alia Parker say they developed the program to build parents’ confidence and skills as their child’s first teacher while building children’s literacy.

“Smartphones are a central part of our lives in 2021 and this project is hoping to capitalize on the prevalence of these devices to help develop young children’s reading and writing skills,” they said.

“Kindytxt aims to improve literacy in more disadvantaged communities by engaging parents through technology and provides easy to act on tips and advice.

“We want to meet parents where they’re comfortable and text messages are a simple and relatively unobtrusive way to do that.”

Phoning Straight to the Home
The research team hopes that by leveraging technology that’s already in everyone’s pockets, they can make a big difference to young children’s literacy.

“We know that parents from a diverse range of communities are engaged in many different literacy practices with their children. Kindytxt aims to help parents build on those practices particularly through shared book activities, songs and nursery rhymes. These activities help build children’s vocabulary, concepts about print and love of books.”

“However, we aren’t leaving parents on their own, we’re also working with kindy teachers and librarians to build partnerships that support early literacy and help children prepare for school,” Professor Barratt-Pugh said.

Parents and caregivers will receive three text messages each week over the 30-week program with simple activities they can do at home to help children learn at kindergarten.

Examples of the texts include:

  • Read a children’s book out loud to your child. Point to the pictures and name the things in the picture. Ask: ‘What can you see in the picture?’
  • Talking about the pictures helps your child to understand the story.
  • Read a children’s book out loud to your child. Point to the pictures. Ask: ‘What is happening in this picture? Why did this happen?’
  • Professor Barratt-Pugh said schools and libraries already play a huge role in developing literacy skills for young children.

    “We know that parents in partnership with kindy teachers and librarians can have a huge effect on children’s literacy development,” she said.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.