Literacy event shows location no barrier to learning outcomes

LiteracyPlanet, an Australian-developed online literacy resource for children aged 4-15, held the National Child Literacy Competition – Word Mania 2015 – on Thursday last week.

The event, held at Macquarie University in North Ryde, involved more than 10,000 children and 1,300 primary schools. The event is designed to help students improve their literacy skills through an online word-building game called “Word Mania”.

The nation’s top 12 young “word builders” from Years 1-6 travelled from various parts of the country, competing to become Australia’s top word builder – a title taken out by Evan Luc-Tran, a Year 1 student from Rhodes in NSW.

LiteracyPlanet CEO, Adam McArthur, told The Educator that the most amazing story to come out of the event was a small school in Alice Springs – Living Waters Lutheran School – ranking ahead of the nation’s top schools.

“This school was competing with all the big schools in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and elsewhere. Two of the finalists were from Alice Springs, based on the points scored from words built,” McArthur told The Educator.

“That is just amazing to me. It shows that the delivery of online education levels the playing field for everyone around the country. Any school that has online access can participate and compete against the big private schools.”

McArthur said the inspiration behind Word Mania came from parents pointing out that most education-based competitions were focused around mathematics rather than on literacy.

“Parents were saying there were too many maths competitions and activities and not enough building literacy skills and making this area of learning fun for students,” McArthur said.

“The whole premise of our business is that reading should be fun. We get great feedback from parents who participated in Word Mania with their kids, even competing head-to-head with them.”

In August, the Smith Family outlined the importance of parental engagement in child learning during National Literacy Week, saying research had shown that students performed better at school when their parents were actively engaged with their learning.

The Smith Family’s acting CEO, Wendy Field, told The Educator that location was no barrier to success, saying parents in poorer households can make a significant impact on their child’s learning,.

“We know that when parents are involved in their children’s learning, it can help improve their outcomes – even though they might have a low-socioeconomic (SES) background,” Field told The Educator.

McArthur agrees. He said that parents are helping to bridge the classroom divide by engaging with their child’s learning.

“The most common feedback we get from teachers is that parental engagement can make a massive difference to the child’s learning. They see the difference when they walk into the classroom the next day,” McArthur said.

“However, many parents see it as the school’s job – not theirs – to get their kids engaged in their learning.

There are the parents who say they are simply too busy with work or chores at home to juggle those responsibilities with their child’s homework.”

For next year’s Word Mania event, McArthur is hoping to increase coverage and participation in the competition through live streaming and video conferencing.

“We have a lot of technology readily available to us which will help bring people closer together. Next year we might make it a real time competition with a leader board that shows the schools and how they’re performing,” McArthur said.

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