Rio Tinto and Better Beginnings reach record number of West Australian kids

20 March 2018

Rio Tinto and the State Library of Western Australia’s award-winning partnership, the Better Beginnings family literacy programme, will reach a record of more than 100,000 children this year. 

To celebrate the milestone, Minister David Templeman helped to mark World Storytelling Day at Manning Library today with the launch of reading materials for developing literacy skills with visually impaired infants. As Australia’s most extensive programme of its kind, Better Beginnings provides a practical means to promote literacy by introducing children aged 0-5 to developmentally appropriate books and activities. 

The programme targets parents and carers to foster a love of books and language from birth; reinforcing the link between reading from birth, early years’ development and school readiness. In 2018 it is set to reach a record 35,000 babies, 35,000 two year olds and 39,000 kindergarten students in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto’s managing director Planning, Integration and Assets, Kellie Parker said "Our partnership with the State Library of Western Australia is delivering outstanding results with improving literacy levels amongst the state’s youngest generation, which will lead to increased opportunities for success at school and later in life.

"Rio Tinto is proud to have partnered with the State Library on the Better Beginnings programme which provides a practical means to promote literacy to children aged 0-5 years and support parents in modelling early literacy practices at home. 

Since its inception in 2005, Rio Tinto has provided almost $3 million to the programme, which is also funded by the State and local governments. Over that time it has reached over 500,000 families throughout Western Australia, 95 per cent of all new-born babies, 98 per cent of kindergarten students and 138 remote Aboriginal communities (100 per cent of those Indigenous communities with more than 80 residents). 

Almost 300,000 birth packs and more than 250,000 kindergarten reading packs have been distributed as well as more than 27,000 remote Indigenous communities reading packs delivered to remote communities. 

A recent report highlighted that investing in early childhood education pays off in the long run - with a return of $2 to $4 for every dollar invested. A report commissioned by the State Library last year showed the Better Beginnings programme was able to deliver a return of $5.64 for every dollar invested.

Findings from an ongoing independent evaluation by Edith Cowan University demonstrate that the program has had a significant positive impact on early reading practices, attitudes and beliefs across Western Australia.

Notes for editors

The Better Beginnings programme is funded through a three-way alliance between Rio Tinto, local government and the State Government, including Royalties for Regions.

Inter-agency collaboration between libraries, child and community health nurses and schools reinforces key literacy messages and provides an integrated approach to improving literacy outcomes for children.