Developing strong literacy skills early on sets the foundation for all future learning. Students entering primary school in developing countries often struggle when learning to read for various reasons: formal education systems lack resources, teachers are not well prepared, classes are overflowing, children enter school with very little exposure to print, and the language differs from the child’s home language. AIR supports emerging and early grade literacy development in many countries.
In partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a team of literacy experts from AIR is creating, implementing, and evaluating a Child Literacy Development program for Grade 1 and 2 children in Laos and for Grade 1 in Guatemala. The program focuses on three main areas:
- pre-literacy and emergent literacy development;
- language-specific factors (i.e. drawing from recent and ongoing research on literacy acquisition in varying alphabetic and non-alphabetic orthographies); and
- bilingual/multilingual literacy acquisition
The program’s overall goal is to use data-informed approaches to improve reading instruction and therefore students’ reading performance. It aims to give teachers the tools and skills they need to identify individual students who are struggling with discrete literacy skills, and then provide targeted remediation.
In the program’s first year, the team conducted situational analyses in both Laos and Guatemala to further understand the language and literacy context in the early grades.
The team then designed two toolkits for teachers in each country: the first for reading readiness (including concept of print and semantic fluency tests); and the second for formative assessment (measuring language-specific literacy skills). Equipped with these toolkits, teachers will be able to gauge each student’s readiness to begin reading instruction, and then track their progress. Each toolkit also includes specific activities for each core reading skill that teachers can conduct to help students struggling with a particular skill. This enables teachers to adjust their teaching approaches based on children’s assessment results. The toolkits will be implemented in Laos starting in September 2017 and in Guatemala in January of 2017.
Implementation will last a full academic year in both countries and will also be evaluated through an in-depth piloted and then implemented on a larger scale in both countries and will also be evaluated using an RCT design in Guatemala and a qualitative design in Laos.
The program is funded by CRS. It began in 2016 and will continue through 2018.