Literacy Around the World
September 8, 2020 is International Literacy Day. Founded to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies, it is now celebrated around the world. Learn more about the projects, people, research, and in-country technical assistance that are contributing to the effort.
How can research inform and improve literacy in the U.S. and around the world? In honor of International Literacy Day, Terry Salinger, PhD, AIR’s chief scientist for literacy research, answered this question and more.
What Works to Improve Early Grade Literacy in Latin America and the Caribbean? A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis
This systematic review examines the effectiveness and fidelity of implementation of various programs in the Latin America and the Caribbean region that aim to improve early grade literacy outcomes, including teacher training, school feeding, computer‐aided instruction, nutrition, and technology‐in‐education.
Although the educational and social context in Honduras presents challenges, the local community has invested considerable time and effort in successfully improving education quality for their children. The USAID-funded Teacher Citizen Participation Project—known as Proyecto EducAcción—aimed to improve child literacy rates through strengthened community participation in education, teacher professional development, and increased access to reading materials.
Despite a twofold increase in primary school enrollment in Mozambique over the past 15 years, educational outcomes remain largely inadequate. Vamos Ler! aims to ensure that Grades 1 to 3 students in Nampula and Zambézia provinces can achieve grade-level fluency and comprehension in local languages.
Millions of children across the world are unable to read a single word even after up to four years of schooling. This landscape report reviews and summarizes available empirical evidence on early grade literacy acquisition and instruction in developing countries.
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. In partnership with Catholic Relief Services, 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.
Read Write Inc. Phonics is a complete literacy program targeted at 4- to 6-year-olds learning to read and write, and 7- to 8-year-olds needing to catch up. Fresh Start is a 33-week catch-up literacy program delivered to target children in Years 5 – 8 identified as having fallen behind in reading and writing. Working with Queens University, Belfast, we are implementing a cluster of randomized controlled trials to determine the impact of the programs on various pertinent reading outcomes in the UK.
Many Egyptian students are missing out on foundational literacy skills in the early grades while older students are being passed along into the upper grades without having acquired such skills. In this video, AIR literacy specialist Rebecca Stone talks about how AIR developed a remedial reading and writing program and literacy teacher-training program to address the need in Egypt.
Many students throughout the developing world struggle with reading, and some 250 million children are still unable to read a single word after having been in school for up to four years. In this video, Pooja Reddy Nakamura explains the role that language and multilingualism plays in the global learning crisis.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are bringing about a paradigm shift in what it means to be a reader, and in how education systems must be restructured to support children’s acquisition of comprehension and critical reading skills. AIR is providing the Ministry of Education in each country with a set of measurable, uniform goals that define what is expected of students, teachers, school directors, district and regional education officials, and teacher mentors. Read about one participating teacher's experiences in the field.
Many literacy interventions have emerged to help children around the world learn to read outside of school. Elizabeth Spier, an AIR principal researcher, talks about what evidence exists about how effective complementary outside school reading activities are at actually improving overall literacy outcomes.
When children have positive reading attitudes and behaviors, they generally also demonstrate strong reading skills. Drawing on data on 4th-grade students from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), this brief explores whether parents’ reading attitudes and behaviors are shared by their children. See the accompanying infographic, Is Reading Contagious? An International Snapshot.
Many students around the world grow up and go to school in multilingual environments, yet there isn’t enough evidence about how to effectively promote reading acquisition in linguistically diverse contexts. The Facilitating Reading Acquisition in Multilingual Environments (FRAME) study addresses this gap by examining the predictors of biliteracy acquisition in South India. Read the final report and related commentary by Pooja Reddy Nakamura, Language in Learning and Literacy: Native Tongues First.
Literacy is a fundamental skill that serves as the foundation for an individual’s future learning and, collectively, for a country’s social and economic development. The USAID/LAC Reads Capacity Program aims to increase the impact, scale, and sustainability of early grade reading interventions in the Latin American and Caribbean region through the development of state-of-the-art knowledge resources. Watch Rebecca Stone and Josefina Vijil talk about key findings from their work on the region’s first systematic review of the literature on early grade reading >>
The purpose of this study on early grade reading and English language learning in primary education in Ethiopia was to explore current policies and practice and make evidence-based recommendations to improve early grade reading and English language learning in Ethiopia.
In the United States
Literacy and numeracy are cornerstones of our modern society. Jaleh Soroui discusses the data behind the National Center for Education Statistics' PIAAC Skills Mapping tool, and how it can be used by state and county policymakers, administrators, educators, researchers, and others to draft policies, address gaps, set priorities, and allocate resources.
Cultivating Oral Language Literacy Talent in Students (COLLTS) is an early childhood program comprised of units that promote the development of pre-reading skills, oral language proficiency, and background and conceptual knowledge through the use of interactive reading with high-quality children’s literature.
There is a pressing need for Spanish-language early intervention programs for students at risk of literacy failure. The Descubriendo la Lectura offers one-on-one lessons in Spanish for a period of 12‒20 weeks to first-grade Spanish-speaking English learners struggling with reading and writing. The program extends the successful Reading Recovery approach to ELs by first addressing literacy in their native language.
A National Center for Education Statistics Data Point shows that one in five adults in the United States have low English literacy skills, meaning that they would have difficulty understanding, evaluating, using, or engaging with written texts.
The go-to source for valid, reliable, and actionable data to inform adult education and training is the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). AIR researchers presented four studies at the third PIAAC Research-to-Practice Conference.
Recent research suggests that dual language education programs, a type of bilingual education program in which students are taught literacy and academic content in English and a partner language, provide more opportunities for English learners to reach higher levels of academic achievement. Read our blog post, Five Ways States Can Support Dual Language Programs, and watch our video, Making Research Relevant: Dual Language Programs Explained for more on this subject.
In 2013, 4.4 million U.S. public school students were classified as English language learners. These students come to school with the benefit of speaking a language other than English. The Center supports states, districts, and schools as they work with ELs to achieve English proficiency and meet content standards. Watch the webinar recording of English Learners and Close Reading: Providing Scaffolding for Writing >>
The Native American and Alaska Native Children in School discretionary grants program aims to reduce the persistent achievement gap between Native American and Alaska Native youth and their peers in reading and English language arts and college readiness in reading. This qualitative study examined the types of activities grantees funded, and the perceived benefits, challenges, and lessons learned.
According to the Program for Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the latest international survey of adult literacy, one in six Americans struggle with basic literacy. In this video, students share their struggles and triumphs, including those of a grandmother taking classes because she couldn’t understand her young grandchildren’s homework, an immigrant who is learning English to get ahead financially, and a laid-off worker convinced that a GED is crucial to getting a job.
Tapping the Potential: Infographics Illustrate Need for Further Skills Training Among American Adults
This series of infographics illustrates the need for further literacy, numeracy and skills training among adults in America. PIAAC findings show adults in the U.S. lagged behind other countries in the industrialized world in each of the three skill areas. The infographics highlight findings for each state and the U.S. overall