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Literacy Boost – Helping children develop reading skills

Background

Around the world, many children leave primary school without the reading skills needed to continue their education and reach their full potential. Save the Children has responded with Literacy Boost, an innovative, evidence-based program to help children learn to read in their early school years. More than 14 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are now implementing or preparing to implement Literacy Boost.

Among these countries is El Salvador, where – despite nearly universal access to basic education – the quality of primary schools is worryingly low. Many children drop out of primary school, and most do not attain even a minimal level of language proficiency. In national standardised tests, only one-third of third-graders perform as expected in reading, with rural students trailing their urban peers. Standardised testing of high school students confirms that when poor reading skills are not addressed early, later achievement suffers.

Save the Children ran a study in three Salvadoran municipalities with particularly low levels of reading proficiency (Ahuachapán, Sonsonate and La Paz) and found that children there face three key challenges: ineffective teaching practices; very limited access to books, especially books appropriate for children; and a lack of literacy promotion in their families and communities, partly due to low general literacy levels. Save the Children’s first implementation of Literacy Boost in El Salvador will therefore focus on these obstacles to language learning.

Objectives

The project’s overall objective is to raise student reading achievement scores in El Salvador’s educational districts of Ahuachapán, Sonsonate and La Paz by ensuring access to and effective use of reading materials for children. Its specific aims are to:

  • Expand local access to reading materials and information about ways to promote early reading development inside and outside of school (in the community and at home)
  • Increase parents’ understanding of reading development and strategies to support it (such as reading together) for their children’s benefit as well as their own
  • Improve literacy instruction by increasing teachers’ use of reading materials and formative assessment practices in the classroom
  • Foster parent-teacher understanding and communication about children’s reading progress

Approach

Literacy Boost combines teacher training with materials and opportunities to practice reading skills in daily life. Using evidence from the latest reading research, it employs a three-pronged approach – encompassing yearly student assessments, teacher training in the national curriculum and community action – to significantly improve children’s core reading skills. Literacy Boost helps children learn to read independently, using activities to promote reading motivation and enjoyment, includings:

  • Parent workshops and strategies to help parents read with their children. Regardless of their own reading ability, parents can promote their children’s reading skills and oral language development through everyday activities that boost the children’s learning of letters, sounds and words and understanding of the world around them.
  • Book banks and materials creation. Save the Children works with local partners and communities to create engaging and relevant print materials for children and make these available through a book bank set up in every village. Children may borrow materials from the local book bank and use them to practice reading outside school.
  • Extracurricular reading activities for children. A variety of extracurricular community-based activities centre on the five core skills of reading, relying on songs, read-aloud sessions and games to help children practice their skills. Tapping community members to conduct these activities with children fosters a culture of reading in the areas where the program operates.

Beneficiaries

About 7,000 children and their families, 90 teachers and at least 10 educational advisors and supervisors in the Salvadoran educational districts of Ahuachapán, Sonsonate and La Paz will benefit directly from this Literacy Boost implementation.

07.10.2016

Partner