It was with great interest that I got word of the new parenting campaign launched by the Scottish Government. Mindful Mum had been contacted and offered to come to the launch, and forwarded the invite on to me in case I was free as she was not. I wasn't either but followed it up requesting further information. I'm still waiting. It seems to me that possibly the launch was a media event and they were short of a few mums (and maybe even, just imagine, dads!) for the photoshoot. Or did they really try and target mummy bloggers who could get the message out about this campaign? If so, why didn't anyone get back to me?
Thankfully, I know how to use my eyesight and google. When I came across this picture I thought it may be related to the ominious parenting campaign. So I googled and found out that thi mysterious campaign was launched on 25th September and is called Play Talk Read. You can find the news release, read what the Herald has to say about it, and it's also been featured as a news story on Children in Scotland.
And the campaign even has a fabulous website, where parents can get bucket loads of advice, information. More than that, if you sign up, you can find local activities for your child, a forum to ask questions, you can find parents near you and even submit ideas for activities with young children. All good stuff, and really something that us Scottish Mummy/Daddy Bloggers should blog about to spread the message. In fact, check it out whereever you are, you don't even have to live in Scotland to get some good ideas from this great resource.
What I'm a bit worried about is that as with similar initiatives to get parents to read with their kids, it assumes parental literacy and access to the internet. Have another look at the advert that decorates Scottish billboards: great image, sharp message - but to find out more you need to search online for "playtalkread". Honestly, who is going to be bothered to do this unless they have a specific interest in this?
The message, though, is a really important one. To give your child the best start in life, play with him/her, talk to him/her, read to him/her. Simple but it makes a massive difference. It's the recipe to tackling inequalities in education and in later life, the recipe to transform society, no less, to make it a more equal and more just society.
Yet my worry is that an advertising campaign (only 14% of people take in advertising and act upon it) and a fancy website will contribute to further increasing the divide, a divide which is increasingly a digital one. I've blogged about this before. If you want to improve educational outcomes/experiences and life chances for children growing up in poverty and disadvantaged communities (and let's be clear, this is what this campaign is about) you need to consider access. Or rather lack thereof. Because many parents don't have the dosh to have broadband access, a computer, even a landline or a bank account needed to get a phone line. That's what poverty means in reality. Add to that parents who themselves didn't have a positive experience of education, may not have great literacy and who will certainly struggle with a very text heavy internet site.
So, just like bookstart, bounce and rhyme and rhyme time, I fear it'll be only those mums who'd be reading to their kids anyway who turn up at sessions, or use this lovely website.