Happy Readers – A Targeted Reading Intervention Laying Strong Foundations and Fostering a Love for Reading
As an educationalist I am continuously exploring how to improve literacy levels in schools. I wake up in the morning and endlessly ponder what Impact Network can do to ensure that our students are given the best opportunities of learning how to read. I spend my days looking at data, reviewing student assessments, talking to staff and researching interventions. (Yes – some would absolutely call me a nerd.) But in a country where reading levels remain very low, with only 63% of the population literate, the importance of gaining the key and basic reading skills in primary school is more important than ever.
For the past year and a half, Impact Network has been experimenting with reading interventions for students in grade 4 and 5 across schools after initial assessments showed that students in grade 5 were significantly struggling to read at the required level. At the start of grade 5, as required by the Government of Zambia, the language of instruction changes from Chinyanja (the local language) to English, which is a particularly challenging transition for students. By starting with targeted English reading interventions in grade 4, the idea has been that students will be more prepared for this transition. After one year of testing different resources, the team finally settled on one approach to be rolled out across schools.
At the start of 2019, the Happy Readers project started with a new approach and new reading resources for all students in grades 4 and 5. All students were assessed in reading and grouped by ability. Since February, all reading groups, which consist of 5-6 students have met multiple times a week and read books appropriate for their level with the support of a School Support Officer.
Over the past 2 weeks, a team of assessors have gone back the schools to see how the reading levels of the students there have changed in the past 5 months. Although reading levels take a lot of time to improve, the preliminary results after only 5 months look promising. The number of 0-scores has decreased significantly and students are reading faster and with more confidence. Looking at the results, I am so proud of all the students who made incredible strides in learning to read English.
Even though I am profoundly excited about how this intervention is equipping our students with the necessary reading skills, the point that has really stuck me is just how happy our students are to read. Witnessing a group of grade 4 students last week giggle hysterically when reading how the main character Hippo falls into his birthday cake was such a joy to see. Not only are our students gaining the skills that will transform their lives, but they are having a wonderful time exploring books and opening their minds to a world of possibilities.