Although many more children are now going to school, it’s estimated that 250 million children across the developing world are struggling to read even basic words – even after four years of school.
Children who fail to read in the early years of school fall further behind every school year and are at higher risk of dropping out than children who master how to read and write early.
But not all is lost. Evidence shows that targeted attention to two key priorities, namely, early childhood development and a focus on literacy acquisition in lower-primary school, could make a decisive difference in reversing the global learning crisis so that all children in school are able to learn.
Providing children with the skills, support and materials they need
Using the latest evidence of what works best when trying to help children learn to read and write, together with innovative approaches to family learning, community action and the literate environment, Save the Children is implementing an exciting program in Rwanda designed to ensure that children there have the skills, support and materials required to exercise their right to read.
The programme has four aims:
- Improving children’s emergent literacy skills and school readiness by supporting family learning for parents and children aged 0–3 and aged 4 – 6.
- Improving the teaching of reading by providing teachers with training in effective reading instruction.
- Developing a popular culture of reading and learning in which communities understand the value of literacy and create and sustain opportunities to practice and enjoy reading together.
- Creating a rich literate environment that guarantees children access to high quality, local language reading materials.
These four aims form the four ‘pillars’ of the programme.
We want to prove that by supporting children’s early learning, and their literacy in particular, both before and in school with measures to radically improve the literate environment, we can have a definitive impact on children’s ability to read and write.
Julia Gillard’s visit to Rwanda
The program recently received a huge boost from a visit by Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education and former Australian Prime Minister. Save the Children is a close partner of the Global Partnership and was recently approved as potential managing entity of GPE funds. Along with ActionAid, Save the Children also represents Northern civil society constituency on the Board of the Global Partnership.
The visit took Ms. Gillard to a school in Gicumbi where she saw the difference that our Literacy Boost teacher training, book provision and community based reading promotion is making to children’s reading skills. She spoke with teachers, parents and children who explained the different elements of our work in their community.
“Save the Children’s work to support early literacy at home, better teaching of reading at school, increased access to books in communities and its work with publishers to produce better children’s books is very exciting,” said Ms Gillard.
“These interventions respond directly to the evidence of what works that were detailed in ‘A Global Compact on Learning’, published by The Brookings Institution where I am a Distinguished Fellow, and I look forward to seeing the results of the program in time,” she said.
“Reading is the gateway to future learning and success at school. Given the global crisis in learning we urgently need to scale up effective, evidence based methods to improve the acquisition of early grade reading skills. I am confident that Save the Children’s work in Rwanda will make an important contribution to doing exactly that,” Ms Gillard concluded.
Save the Children is part of the local education group in Rwanda which works with the government to develop comprehensive education sector plans that are then funded by the government and external donors, including the Global Partnership for Education.
The development story of the next generation will be written by the children sitting in the classrooms of low-income countries today. Whether they become the catalyst for a nation’s social and economic renaissance will depend on whether or not they learn to read.
Save the Children is committed to helping them do so and we’re very excited about our programme in Rwanda, which we hope will help show the world what’s possible. It was a real honour to be able to share it with the Chair of the Global Partnership for Education as part of that process.
Our ‘Advancing the right to read’ programme baselines and studies report is available here.