Sue West has spent most of her working life understanding and improving the ways children learn.
This has led her to three key conclusions: children learn from birth; literacy is one of the most important skills; and the home environment plays a critical role in development.
27 - Years as an RACV member
10,000 - Children taking part in the Growing up in Australia study
Sue, an associate director of the Centre for Community Child Health at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and a group leader with the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, is spearheading a national literacy initiative that stems from her work.
The initiative, Let’s Read, aims to increase the number of children who share books, stories, songs and nursery rhymes with the people in their lives.
“This is about addressing the additional literacy challenges faced by children growing up in low socio-economic households,” Sue said.
These challenges have been highlighted by Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, which follows the progress of about 10,000 children.
It has found that disadvantaged children have far worse literacy skills by age four and that the gap is greater by age six.
To help address this disparity, Let’s Read provides books and techniques to make reading more fun.
Sue said it is already making a big difference: “It’s a great example of the way we take knowledge and use it to change children’s lives.”