Celebrating World Literacy Day with EdConnect


Today is World Literacy Day and the Geelong Community Foundation is proud to highlight the incredible work of EdConnect, a local organisation that partners with schools to identify their specific needs and then recruit, screen, train and match intergenerational volunteers in learning support, either classroom or program-based, or mentoring roles.

EdConnect General Manager Danie McNeil said that Geelong schools and teachers are doing an amazing job but could always use extra support.

“Within our community we have many amazing people who want to give their time and knowledge to support students in learning and life. That is where EdConnect steps in,” she said.

“EdConnect partner schools advise the greatest benefit of the program is the ability to provide a positive older role model for children to interact with followed by the ability to offer one to one assistance to those who need it most.”

Supporting education programs is one of the priority areas for funding at the Foundation. The challenge for our community is to ensure more children stay at school longer and progress into higher education and training. Connecting volunteers with teachers and students can deliver powerful results, as demonstrated by the EdConnect program.

EdConnect Geelong and Surf Coast Liaison Officer Caitlin O’Connor said that her favourite part of the role was finding the perfect match between a school and a volunteer.

“Being based in Geelong I am well-versed in the needs of our schools and the wider community. Quite often as I am interviewing a prospective volunteer, I am already thinking how their unique skills, interests and personality will fit perfectly with a particular school,” she said.

“Classrooms are a complex environment with students having differing needs and styles of learning. EdConnect volunteers never replace paid staff, rather, they support the teacher and students with a focus that can be academic, social or emotional. Across the classroom and year levels, EdConnect volunteers hear that many students don’t have the ability to read to adults at home and for many volunteers that is the extra support they provide in a learning support role and they love it!”

In Term 2 of 2022, 55% of Geelong EdConnect volunteers’ time was focused on literacy support and 20% of volunteers were providing support in the Library. Across Term 2 an incredible 631 volunteer hours were given to schools for literacy and library support, impacting overt 870 students a week.

A Geelong volunteer reflected on their experience in the classroom during this time and stated that, “It provides an opportunity to individually read which is not always available at home.”

This was a common theme from volunteers that they observed many students don’t have the ability to read or have someone listening to them reading at home, which is essential in their literacy development.

Another Geelong volunteer expressed that, “My most memorable moment has been the elation experienced with a couple of the non-English speaking children who do not receive any assistance at home and who, at the beginning of Term 3, were still struggling with very simple and basic two or three letter words. They have now reached reading levels that I did not think or believe possible and this has truly immensely inspired me to continue with my volunteering, knowing that even in a minute way, I have contributed to their school learning experience. The warm welcome and compliments the children often convey, uplift my morale enormously, and makes me feel very worthwhile.”

EdConnect General Manager Danie McNeil said that it was well-known that literacy is a critical foundation block for students, in both learning and life.

“It is essential to build knowledge and learning at every stage of life, build confidence, raise aspirations but also function within society and everyday life. EdConnect volunteers who support literacy in classrooms are providing an extra set of adult eyes, ears and hands to support learning,” she said.

“Through our program more students can read to an adult, extra help can be provided to students who need learning strategies reinforced and hands on support to tackle tasks. On World Literacy Day, we want to celebrate the role of EdConnect volunteers who help to improve learning outcomes, engage with students and build literacy confidence to help students achieve their best.”

EdConnect volunteer Lee volunteers 15 hours per week at Leopold Primary School’s Library. One of her favourite tasks is to create displays that align with learning themes across the year levels. Earlier this year it was a Dr Seuss display and Lee’s view is, “If the display encourages one more student to pick up a book or one more parent to be engaged and read to their child, it is all worthwhile.”

Lee also organised a fairy door to be installed in the library on a book carousel and one of the classes has now found it and has commenced writing letters to the library fairy, which is simply magical.

Geelong Community Foundation CEO Gail Rodgers said it was clear that the one-on-one assistance that volunteers provide to students is a standout feature of the EdConnect program.

“Beyond the literacy gains, this relationship is providing improved self-esteem and building extra confidence for students to achieve success,” she said.