The value of reading cannot be overstated. Once a child can read, they have the key to endless worlds of information and the ability to communicate meaning across wide boundaries. It is a lifelong skill which the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association considers a vital feature of a society committed to equity.

“Literacy is the first step towards freedom, towards liberation from social and economic constraints. It is the prerequisite for development, both individual and collective. It reduces poverty and inequality, creates wealth, and helps to eradicate problems of nutrition and public health,” Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay said on International Literacy Day 2018.

However we rarely think about the skills which come before – the building blocks of reading.

Research shows that phonological awareness is a solid predictor of reading success ahead of formal school learning. Phonological awareness refers to the understanding of the sound structure of a language – the knowledge that spoken words are made up of smaller parts.

In particular, phonemic awareness (the awareness of individual sounds in words) has been found by the US National Reading Panel to significantly improve children’s reading and spelling.

This is why we created the Sounds good to me program, in an effort to pair our speech pathologists’ expert knowledge of the sound structure of language with early educators focused on preparing children for school. The program is play-based, and is designed to be easily embedded into an early childhood setting.

Investing in early childhood education is essential, and research shows that positive educational experiences early on have life-long impacts on health, learning and behaviour. In fact, a 2019 report by the Front Project found that every $1 AUD invested in early childhood education in Australia will deliver $2 back into the economy over that child’s life.