Planting the Seeds of Literacy with Liberia Reads
Literacy programs are assisting our students in becoming solid readers — one story at a time.
At the end of each week at the Gbarnga Lutheran Training Center (GLTC), students are invited in front of their class to read a story aloud. This class presentation is an event each student has been practicing for all week. The child first reads the story along with their teacher, echo reads each sentence, choral reads the text with their class and partners with a classmate to read each story before stepping into the spotlight.
These literacy lessons are a result of our partnership with Liberia Reads!, a professional development program for teachers. Each student at GLTC has his or her own guided reading text to use, one per year per grade. Each guided reader has 36 stories. The books have controlled vocabulary stories about Liberian children doing Liberian things in Liberian settings. They were written, of course, with easier, shorter stories at the beginning of the books and longer, more complex stories last.
While this might seem like a routine lesson at schools in developed countries, this reading cycle marks a huge step forward for literacy in Liberia. Liberia Reads! estimates that GLTC’s literacy training program places it in the top 5% of elementary classrooms in an impoverished country.
This is mainly due to the blessing that we are able to provide each student at GLTC with his or her own guided reader. When Liberia Reads! first started its program in 2009, the Rural Teacher Training Institutes (RTTIs) had been closed down for 20 years. Many teachers had little knowledge of sound/letter correspondence and were reading themselves at a 2nd to 4th grade level. After Liberia’s 14-year civil war, the USAID sponsored a study to assess the reading levels of 2nd and 3rd grade students in Liberia. It found that 37% of 3rd graders could not read a single 3 letter word. Liberia Reads! programs, like the one at GLTC, are starting to make a difference.
In 2019, Liberia Reads! conducted an independent assessment of third graders going through the Liberia Reads! program. This study showed that over 70% of them reached “international" benchmarks.
Even with all the disadvantages, literacy programs are assisting our students in becoming solid readers — one story at a time.