New Learn-to-read Series Supports Learning At Home After Lockdown

Press Release – University of Canterbury

Many parents will have enjoyed sharing books and stories with their whānau during lockdown. This is a wonderful way to support young children learning to read. A new series of stories for young Kiwis, released by the University of Canterbury (UC) Child Well-being Research Institute, provides a perfect resource for the whole family, based on extensive research.

Everyday scenarios, drawn from ordinary New Zealand life, are told with delightful simplicity through the new ‘Better Start Literacy Approach’ series of books for young readers. Storylines include dropped ice blocks, bee stings, fun runs and farmyard adventures.

A great deal of care has gone into creating each story so that parents and their tamariki can get a lot out of reading them aloud together, while also providing children with practice in decoding short words and understanding simple story themes.

Researchers from the UC Child Well-being Research Institute/Te Kāhui Pā Harakeke developed the series as part of the Better Start Literacy Approach following several years of research on how best to support children’s early reading, writing and oral language success. It reflects extensive feedback from teachers, parents, children and community leaders and was also influenced by the work of Professor Angus Macfarlane on supporting learning success for young Māori learners.

“Positive engagement of whānau in their children’s literacy learning is just so important,” says Professor Gail Gillon, Director of the UC-based Institute, and an international expert in Speech-Language Therapy and Education.

Designed for five and six year old children, the stories can be easily read on the computer, downloaded, printed out and made into little books, or children can listen to the stories being read. Parents can find the series online at:

“We have included teaching notes at the end of each reader and these are great tools for parents, who can support children’s learning of new vocabulary, extend their language through discussing the story theme and help children to sound out the words as they learn to read.”

Pre-schoolers will also benefit from parents sharing these stories with them. New Zealand data from a 2016 international reading literacy study found that children whose parents frequently engaged with them in early literacy activities before school were much better readers at 10 years old than those whose parents only did this occasionally.

“Time at home with your children is a wonderful chance to engage them in listening to stories and supporting their oral language development that is so critical for early reading and writing success.”

Schools in Christchurch and Auckland are starting to adopt the Better Start Literacy Approach and the Institute is also working with the Ministry of Education in exploring how this approach can benefit all young learners.

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