September 8 marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day. First proclaimed by UNESCO, International Literacy Day aims to mobilise the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.

At Ardoch, support for literacy is a cornerstone of what we do.

It is shocking to learn that 43.7 percent of Australians aged over 15 have a level of literacy below that which is considered proficient (OECD, 2013). It is even more concerning to know that comparatively the reading skills of Australian 15-year olds has slipped backwards in the last two years, with the gap between those in the highest socio-economic communities and those in the lowest equal to about 2.5 years. This data illustrates the importance of early interventions that support the attainment of literacy and language skills.

Ardoch’s literacy programs are therefore an important offering to our partner schools and early years’ services. Community Education Volunteers program volunteers are recruited, trained and placed in classrooms to provide literacy support for a minimum of six months. We have some new research results to launch later this year highlighting the impact that volunteers in this program have and are looking forward to sharing this with you.

Similarly, volunteers in our Early Language and Literacy program support the development of language skills in the early years prior to school. While in our flagship Literacy Buddies® program children are given purposeful writing opportunities linked to the curriculum, by being matched to a positive working adult role model – a ‘Big Buddy’ – and participating in a letter-exchange program for a year and our Writers-In-Residence program builds children’s confidence in writing and publishing for an audience.

To show your support for Ardoch’s vital work on International Literacy Day join me in buying the word ‘literacy’ or have some fun and make up your own in our Own A Word initiative.