Early childhood literacy top on the list for Fairfax Media

As term two closes for most schools across the nation, more than four thousand toddlers will be kept busy with new books during the holidays, courtesy of the Fairfax First Books programme.

As one of Fairfax Media's thriving corporate responsibility programmes, Fairfax First Books was established in 2006 and distributes approximately 16,000 books a year to kindergartens throughout New Zealand. With the goal of promoting early literacy for pre-schoolers, each child receives one book per term to own and share with their families, most often from the much-loved Kapai Kiwi series by Uncle Anzac. In addition to this, once a year the programme also gifts these kindergartens a set of Big Books for teachers to use at group reading sessions.

Head teacher of Aorere Kindergarten, Paula Irving, says children receive the books with joy and excitement and parents look forward to receiving them just as much as the children do. "Having these books every term has made a marked difference in getting our parents on board with reading to their children at home," says Irving. For most, these are the first books ever owned in the household.

The kindergartens are selected in collaboration with the New Zealand Kindergarten Association and are chosen because they are low decile schools and are located in areas where Fairfax Media has a presence, allowing staff to deliver books and build a broad connection with the communities in which they operate in.

Waitangirua Kindergarten head teacher, Marg Wadsworth, says the school, which has 21 nationalities attending, is very grateful to be a recipient of the books because they place a high priority on literacy and numeracy. "The children keep the book and take it home to be read by someone in their whanau, often an older sibling. It is important for children and gives them a taste and, we hope, a love of print," says Wadsworth.

Editors and staff across Fairfax mastheads made their rounds to kindergartens in their respective areas to hand out the latest instalment of books. "Anything that encourages reading and a connection with the printed word is important," says Dominion Post editor, Bernadette Courtney. Currently, seven kindergartens benefit from the programme in the Wellington region. "The Dominion Post is a key part of the local community so it is good to be able to give something back," says Courtney.

Fairfax Media contributes approximately six million dollars every year in cash and kind to a range of charitable and community causes. This is done as part of the company's goal of being deeply embedded in the communities it serves - from a group level down to each masthead. Fairfax First Books receives a donation from the Round the Bays proceeds each year.