United We Read is an early intervention program in the disadvantaged suburbs of Elizabeth Park and Elizabeth Downs (Adelaide) that aims to build foundation literacy skills in children aged from birth to 5 years, run by United Way South Australia. The program involves a monthly literacy kit posted to each child, which includes an age appropriate storybook and parent help sheet as well as family fun events focused on building a rapport with parents as well as literacy.
This research project aims to explore how a story-time radio show might add value to the United We Read program, and investigate if such a radio show can further engage children in their love of reading, and assist parents’ involvement, regardless of their own levels of literacy. United Way SA partnered with the University of South Australia (UniSA), to produce a radio show (the United We Read Radio Story-time) that broadcasts readings of the books that coincide with those that have been distributed to the United We Read clients each month. The radio show was broadcast on Internet radio station UniCast (unicast.com.au) and community radio station PBA-FM, and nine families currently registered with the United We Read program were recruited to participate in the research program and provide feedback on the radio story-time show.
Preliminary findings from this pilot research project demonstrate that radio can be used to assist the enhancement of children's experiences of an early intervention book-reading program, however, the medium is more successful with children over the age of three. It also appears that radio can also assist to engage parents' involvement, on a number of levels. Parents who struggle with reading aloud received direct benefits while others said it created spaces for increased one-on-one reading time with their child.
There is definitely scope for the United We Read Radio Story-time to expand nationally. United Way is a national organisation, and the United We Read book program is offered in a number of States and Territories. Further investigation is needed to consider how a national radio show could be coordinated, potentially through the Community Radio Network, which provides content to community radio stations around the country, or through existing children’s Internet radio stations.