Launched in mid-2012, the Westall Book Swap and Story Time Project is held monthly at the Westall Maternal and Child Health Centre. The community based program targets culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families with pre school age children and aims to strengthen community connectedness and wellbeing. Based in Westall, families come together from neighbouring Clayton South and Clarinda to share stories, sing songs and swap books while building strong relationships with each other and health services. Volunteers are also trained to facilitate the sessions with the support of professional staff. This community imput has been essential to the ongoing success and sustainabilty of the program.
Access to books is provided through the free bookswap library, which is generously supported by Kingston Libraries who supply 2nd hand books. Small grants assist in supplementing this supply with new books, sourced with the expertise of the Central Bayside Community Health Services Child Development Team.
The communities of Clarinda, Clayton South and Westall within the SMPCP catchment are home to a significant number of CALD families who may be experiencing social isolation. Approximately 57 percent of Clayton South residents and 48 percent of Clarinda residents were born overseas. Cultural differences, past experiences such as trauma and financial pressures such as unemployment also mean that families may not understand the importance of, or are unable to ensure the provision of a literature rich environment from a young age.
The Westall Book Swap and Story Time Project has embodied all the principles of the Act-Belong-Commit campaign. It enables participants to be mentally and socially active through the sharing of stories and books (Act). Social isolation is addressed by fostering a sense of belonging, especially for those who previously had few connections to the community (Belong). Opportunities are also available for participants to commit to new challenges such as volunteering within the group (Commit).
Since the program was launched, over 100 registered families have taken part. Participants have found great value in attending the group by expressing comments to staff such as “I feel much better after I have been here”, “It’s fun for me and my son-learning, dancing, singing, playing and socialising”and “Just love coming here. Such a friendly environment and I am making friends with other mothers”. Choosing a venue that was familiar and accessible to families has been essential to the program’s success. It is hoped that more participants will complete training to become volunteer leaders to further enhance the community ownership of the program.
Participants have also become more engaged with early childhood services, most notably maternal and child health and kindergarten.The project is a collaborative effort between staff from Central Bayside Community Health Services and the City of Kingston.
For more information about the program please contact:
Health Promotion Coordinator
Central Bayside Community Health Services