How Reading To Foster Kids Can Change Their Lives

Foster kids who struggle to read and write are likely to end up homeless.

What you need to know
  • The Pyjama Foundation trains volunteers to read to foster children
  • Vulnerable kids in care have poor literacy and numeracy rates
  • Volunteer told ten daily she's seen a "huge improvement" in foster child's reading

Christine Heard has been working as a volunteer with the Pyjama Foundation for five years. She's what the charity dubbed a "pyjama angel".

"I met her when she was six and she's now 11" Heard told ten daily.

The young girl Heard supports has lived in foster care for years.

"This little girl has lost a sibling, her only sister passed away. She's obviously no longer living with her parents. She has suffered significant loss and trauma as a child," she said.

'Angels' are matched with a child in care, and spend one hour a week reading to them and providing companionship.

Christine and her foster child who she has been reading to for five years. IMAGE: Supplied

"The idea is to help kids in foster care to increase their literacy and numeracy skills. We are meant to read to them every week but I also help with homework, bake, play and jump on the trampoline with my foster child," Heard said.

Children in care are less likely to achieve the national minimum standards in literacy and numeracy, with the gap growing substantially over time.

Around 92 percent of children in foster homes are below the average reading level at age seven. This early disadvantage is linked to adult homelessness.

The Pyjama Foundation estimated more than 100,000 books are read to  foster children in their program each year. Every week, as many as 1400 vulnerable kids are visited by an 'angel'.

'Pyjama Angels' volunteer one hour every week to read to vulnerable children. IMAGE: Supplied

"There has definitely been a huge improvement in her handwriting neatness, as well as writing and spelling. Her social skills have really improved too," Heard said. 

Heard runs her own business and has two children, and is often under a lot of pressure.

"At first my kids couldn't understand why I would spend time with a child that wasn't them."

"I had to explain to them that not everybody is as lucky as them, not every child feels loved and wanted.  Now she's my third child really," she said.

Dance and martial arts group Ettinghausens participated in pyjama day. IMAGE: Supplied

Despite her busy schedule, Heard said she gets a lot back from the relationship.

"I find the one hour a week I spend with my foster child, afterwards, I feel so energised and I'm laughing and I'm happier."

The charity also hosts National Pyjama Day on July 20 each year. Businesses and organisations are encouraged to ask staff to wear their pyjamas to work and donate money to the foundation.