Radio Story-Time Pilot

United Way SA in partnership with the University of South Australia and 5PBA community radio ran a story-time radio show pilot for young children registered in the United We Read Program. The pilot also assisted parents of those children, allowing them to improve on their skills to read aloud to their children. It aimed to boost early literacy skills and connect children with stories, helping to prevent long-term reading difficulties, speech impairments and low self-esteem. The pilot was supported by funds from Community Benefits SA, beginning in November 2015 and concluding in June 2016.

Preliminary findings from Dr Heather Anderson of UniSA presented the story-time radio pilot can be used to assist in the enhancement of children’s experiences for United Way’s Reading Aloud to Every Child Every Day book-reading program; however, the medium is more successful for children over the age of three. Her findings also revealed the radio pilot can support the engagement of parents’ involvement on a number of levels. Parents who struggle with reading aloud received direct benefits, whilst others mentioned it created spaces for increased one-on-one reading time with their child.

Based on the positive evaluation of the story-time pilot, further funding has been sought to refine program content and extend market reach of the United We Read pilot program in 2017. Now in 2018, United Way SA are still wanting to take the pilot to the next stage and is still seeking funding to help make this pilot into a regular radio segment.

Parent Feedback from the United Way SA - Uni SA - United We Read Radio Story-Time Pilot

I love it how it’s encouraging all my children, even … the older kids. To get a new book, they get so excited and then they all read to each other, and I love it that they’re all reading and getting into books and … so it’s really good to see them all reading and sharing it and, yeah, it’s nice.
(Family participant, initial interview)

Half of the participant families (4) first heard of the United We Read book program through their local playgroup or kindergarten, while the others were either referred by their nurse (1), midwife (1) or through word-of-mouth more generally (3). The most popular feature of the reading program was the regular home-delivery of the books, which was met with anticipation by the children involved (with the exception of the five month old). Parents described their children’s excitement at checking the mailbox and knowing that a parcel had arrived for them personally.

…he likes going to the letterbox, so that’s a big part of the whole thing I think … everything’s always for dad, for dad, for dad. So when it’s one for him, it is a bit like, oh okay this is a bit different!
(Family participant, initial interview)

Other benefits of the reading program cited by participants were the school holiday activity programs and playgroup readings, the tip-sheet for parents, the high quality of the books and the fact that they were free, and therefore supporting families who might not be able to buy many books. There were very few suggestions for improvement except that more robust books may be appropriate for younger readers. A number of participants wanted the program to be available in other suburbs so that their friends could also access it, and one parent wished that more families would attend the events organised by United We Read.

Only one parent said they faced significant challenges when reading to her son, because of her own dyslexia. Her self-admitted lack of confidence in reading aloud caused her much anxiety, and she felt her son was, in turn, affected by this. She said she hoped the radio show would help her to actively read with her son, even if it was through another person’s voice.

He gets really bored with me reading, because I sound really boring, because I miss words or I misread words, and being that he’s a bit older, he needs a better voice, if that makes sense … I’m not really good at my reading, … speaking to an audience, so when it comes to reading a book, even to my son, I stutter and that sort of thing … I just get a bit anxious that I’m not going to get the right words.
(Family participant, initial interview)

The rest of the families who participated in the pilot research project said they did not face any notable challenges reading to their children. This is a weakness of the research that will be addressed further in Section 3.4. Individual smaller challenges included keeping books intact due to ‘over enthusiastic page-turning’, keeping to a routine and holding their child’s attention whilst reading. One parent said they had their own troubles with reading prior to starting high-school.

I think it’s all about eye contact as well, because when I normally read her story she is looking at the book but she’s looking at my face and how I’m saying the words, and all that type of interaction. Where there is a radio she can’t see that. So it’s a different thing, she doesn’t quite understand.
(Family participant with 5 month of child, focus group)

Most families established a routine for listening to the show, which created a level of expectation as to what was about to happen, especially after a few weeks of broadcast. A few families said they read in the same place, usually on a bed or in a comfortable chair. Two participant families were blood-related, and met at ‘Nanna’s” house to read and listen together.

One mother said that as soon as a certain television program on ABC 3 finished, her child knew it was time to turn of the television and tune into the radio show. All of these approaches created a routine that prepared the children to settle and read/listen. The regular theme song also acted as an important signifier

Because we did it together at Nanna’s it was, literally, all we had to say was, “We’re going to go read the book at Nanna’s”. So, (he) knew where the books were kept and he would go get the bag and then we would head off to Nanna’s … so that was enough of a trigger to get him over there because he liked doing it like that, that did work better than just us going into the bedroom…
With also having the start-up music as well, the kids knew, “oh okay we dance around for a little bit and then I’ve got the book that I can read next”.
(Two participant families, final focus group)

Two parents said they believed their child enjoyed hearing a different voice, something ‘different to Mum’.

He has liked hearing it coming from another person, and I point to the words as the person’s saying it and because she’s got a better voice and she doesn’t make any mistakes.
(Family participant, final interview)

The participant children also responded positively to hearing their names mentioned on the radio.

The day when they said her name, she talked about it for days. “They said my name on the radio.” So, she was quite ecstatic, she absolutely loved that.
(Family participant, focus group)

One parent who spoke English as a second language said the radio show helped her to understand the books more clearly.

I loved the reading, yeah. I loved the way it’s very clear for me. I understand all of them, … sometimes my listening is not good … but I understand the reading, the way you read yeah. I love the reading and the accent.
(Family participant, final interview)

The radio show appeared to be most valuable to the participant parent with dyslexia. While she couldn’t say for certain if the radio show benefited, or was enjoyed, by her son (who has autism and an auditory processing disorder), she was very positive about the benefits to her own reading confidence.

You know how the people sit there and you’ve got to close your eyes, and you’ve got to visualise the rainforest, I can’t do that. So this kind of thing is better for me. I can actually look at the words while it’s being said. And it’s – what do you call it? – audio English lessons … if that makes sense.
(Family participant, final interview)


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