January 21, 2022
January 24 is UNESCO’s World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture, and All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) joins others around the world in celebrating the vibrant cultures of the African continent, the African diaspora around the world, and our innovators working in Africa who are helping to ensure children are able to access culturally familiar and child-friendly stories to motivate them to learn to read.
Having access to culturally familiar and engaging stories in the languages they use and understand has a big impact on children’s willingness and desire to read. They go hand-in-hand in creating a new generation of readers for life.
Literacy is a cornerstone of development, placing children on a path for future success in school, employment, health and society. Research shows that children experience greater reading success when learning in their local spoken or signed language. Providing engaging and accessible books in these underserved languages is essential to empowering and supporting these children on their path to literacy.
Yet around the world, millions of children have little to no books in languages they use and understand at home, thereby limiting their right to literacy and quality education. For the more than 93 million children with disabilities, the shortage of books is even more severe, as resources, if available at all, often lack accessible formats.
ACR GCD is on a mission to ensure all children have access to books and learn how to read. Below are collections of resources and solutions developed over the last 10 years to increase reading outcomes for children in Africa:
- Initiative Africa improved reading and classroom instruction by collecting data from early grade reading assessments.
- Whiz Kids Workshop fostered a culture that celebrates learning and literacy through a television and radio series, Whiz Kids
- Viamo used VOTO Mobile to power an interactive, personalized and measurable platform to engage students on basic mobile phones through interactive voice response.
- Perkins International introduced modern teaching methods along with assistive technology for children who are blind and low vision.
- Olinga Foundation for Human Development utilized a phonic and syllabic approach to reading in their local language to accelerate students’ ability to develop a second language.
- Open Learning Exchange used the School Basic e-Learning Libraries to introduce educational content for students and teachers to address the lack of high quality reading materials.
- Worldreader improved literacy skills by providing e-readers filled with culture-specific digital books in both the Ghanaian language and English.
- eKitabu used their Studio KSL to help the deaf community and local content creators integrate sign language videos into literacy content.
- Xavier Project provided engaging personalized learning for refugees in Kenya by using ENEZA, a mobile SMS study took, to support primary school children in accessing educational materials for every subject on the syllabus.
- Hifadhi Africa used low-cost and low-power computers to support and accelerate adoption of education in pastoral areas of Kenya.
- University of Nairobi ComTech used an early grade reading instruction curriculum (EGRIC) in print and electronic format to provide teachers with high quality reading instruction materials and resources in English and Kiswahili
- FHI 360 developed instruction and learning materials in languages children use and understand and engaged family and community support in reading.
- Save the Children Malawi accelerated children’s reading by training teachers and non-literate parents on activities to do at home to improve their children’s language skills.
- Oeuvre Malienne d’aide a l’Enfance du Sahel provided families with immediate access to community developed print and digital reading resources through mobile technology and local libraries.
- Reseau d’Acteurs pour le Renouveau de l’Education used mobile technology to help teachers in Mali view, learn and apply new teaching techniques using balanced literacy approaches.
- Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy used an easy, computer-based instruction for literacy learning in primary schools, Bridges to the Future–South Africa, to help students hear, identify and manipulate phonemes
- Georgia State University increased the reading achievement levels of young learners through implementation of research-based, context-relevant literacy curricula and materials.
- The Stanford Learning, Design and Technology Program leveraged existing supply deliveries and distribution channels to increase access to learning in crisis or conflict settings where schooling is interrupted.
- Urban Planet Mobile delivered daily SMS reading lessons to adult caregivers through mobile devices to help their child’s literacy.
- Creative Associates International mobilized community members to submit favorite local stories and folktales and distrubed the stories, along with comprehension questions, to early grade students and their families via SMS.
- The University of Jyvaskyla Agora Center used the mobile reading game GraphoGame to assist struggling students and certify Zambian teachers in local language literacy instruction.
- Lubuto Library Partners created high-quality, mother-tongue materials through LubutoLiteracy, a low-cost digital platform that used local teachers to build lessons in seven languages.
In other parts of Africa
- In Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda and Senegal, Human Network International developed Building DataWinners, a cloud-based communication service that collects and shares educational data through mobile phones.
- In Lesotho, Catholic Relief Services used innovative technologies for teachers to create and translate print/braille learning materials for children who are blind and low vision to learn braille.
- In Morocco, the Institute for Disabilities Research and Training used assistive technology to enable educators to easily create and publish Moroccan Sign Language supported educational materials for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
- In Rwanda, Drakkar Ltd. encouraged a culture of reading by providing Kinyarwanda storybooks, school-based mentors and training to teachers.
- In Senegal, YMCA Senegal generated a passion to read through Read Right Now!, an after-school weekly reading session to improve students reading skills
- In Somalia, Africa Educational Trust implemented a reading program that increased teacher to student contact hours, textbook availability, teacher training and instruction.
- In South Sudan, Across equipped primary school teachers with solar-powered digital audio players to develop teachers’ skills and tutor students.
In addition to the innovations and projects above, ACR GCD innovators are currently working on several projects in Africa right now:
- ILC Africa is introducing 400 Talking Books into 50 Early Childhood Development centers in rural Malawi to contribute to preliteracy skills of children ages 3-6 years old.
- eKitabu has two current projects: In Rwanda, innovators are widening access to books in accessible formats and working with teachers, community members and caregivers to bring awareness to accessible ICT. In Malawi, they are creating more than 250 books in Tumbuka and Malawian Sign Language for free use on the Global Digital Library
- In Mali, SIL LEAD is creating 420 quality, accessible books in the Soninke and Senoufo languages as well as Malian Sign Language using SIL’s Bloom book creation software.
On this day celebrating and promoting African cultures, we encourage you to take the opportunity to be part of the solution in ensuring children in Africa have access to education and culturally familiar and relevant reading materials to advance child literacy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Raise awareness of these resources on social media. Need a post? Share ours on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn!
- Looking for culturally relevant and familiar solutions and tools in other countries–or can be implemented anywhere? Explore dozens of other impactful innovations and approaches here.
- Read and share accessible (and free!) books on the Global Digital Library, which has over 6000 books in 90 languages.
- If you’re an educator, learn more about accessible EdTech for children with disabilities.
- Sign up for our eNewsletter to get the latest news and EdTech innovations to increase reading outcomes for marginalized children in low-resource contexts.
Together, we can make sure all children are reading!