Helping children develop reading skills
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, which combines teacher training with materials and opportunities to practice reading skills in daily life. Based on evidence from current reading research, it combines yearly student assessments, teacher training in the national curriculum and community action to significantly improve children’s core reading skills. It helps children learn to read independently using activities to promote reading motivation and enjoyment, including workshops and strategies to help parents read with their children, book banks and material creation and extracurricular reading activities for children.
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. On 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. Its first implementation of Literacy Boost in El Salvador therefore focused on these obstacles.
The project’s overall objective was to raise student reading achievement scores in the educational districts of Ahuachapán, Sonsonate and La Paz, El Salvador, by ensuring access to and effective use of reading materials for children.
Over the course of the project, this implementation of Literacy Boost:
- Expanded local access to reading materials and information about ways to promote early reading development inside and outside school (in the community and at home)
- Increased parents’ understanding of reading development and strategies to support it (such as reading together) for their children’s benefit as well as their own
- Improved literacy instruction by increasing teachers’ use of reading materials and formative assessment practices in the classroom
- Fostered parent-teacher understanding and communication about children’s reading progress
About 7 000 children, their families, 90 teachers and at least 10 educational advisors and supervisors in the participating educational districts benefitted directly from the project.