Since 2013, Prudence Foundation has partnered with Save the Children to implement First Read, a unique programme which recognises the vital importance of children’s earliest experiences for their future learning and growth.
We recognised that many children in the countries where Prudential operates are not supported through the early years of their lives. This has the tragic affect of many children not obtaining the necessary skills to handle the challenges of primary school, resulting in high drop out rates.
The most critical brain development occurs from conception to age three, which is why good care and stimulation for this age group is so important. There is strong global evidence that early educational interventions can improve children’s development and better prepare them for school. Furthermore, parents and caregivers are children’s first and best teachers. Good parenting skills are linked to improved school attendance and better results.
So in response, we partnered with Save the Children who developed First Read, an innovative and holistic home-based early childhood care and development (ECCD) programme. First Read is designed to empower parents and caregivers to help young children develop essential literacy skills, preparing them for school and life.
Since 2013, First Read has directly reached over 222,000 children aged 0-6 years and adults, through activities that include developing early years reading material, providing parenting education and supporting community-based playgroup sessions. The programme to date has also benefited 483,000 community members indirectly through the sharing of knowledge and resources.
First Read’s activities are mainly focused on home-based ECCD, which helps parents and caregivers understand the importance of creating a pro-learning environment. Home-based ECCD builds their confidence, providing them with the capacity, knowledge and skills to interact and raise their children. This ultimately helps ensure better parenting skills, which are linked to better school attendance, lower rates of repetition, and better test scores.
The programme works in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders to provide holistic support for the development of ECCD. Through Save the Children, we work with commercial publishers, illustrators, designers and publishers in both Cambodia and the Philippines to develop local knowledge and skills to produce these types of reading materials.
Save the Children also works with publishers to refine their publication concepts and understanding of what makes a good children’s book, and then promotes these books through First Read.
First Read has a holistic programme design:
1. Book development
First Read trains and supports local illustrators, authors and publishers, to produce books suitable for very young readers in their local language.
2. Book gifting
First Read then buys the books published as a result of this training, and gifts them to families with young children in the communities where we work.
3. Family learning
Parents and caregivers are then given opportunities to learn new skills to support their children’s emerging literacy and numeracy skills. Our support gives them the skills and confidence to help their children develop.
4. Community action
We work with communities and local government to raise awareness of the importance of reading and ECCD services, and to lobby for greater investment in those services.