Room to Read has been working to make reading a part of life in children and believes this is crucial to meet the nation’s commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal in education
Published on January 25, 2021 at 4:09 pm
Updated on January 28, 2021 at 10:42 am
Room to Read’s Comprehensive Literacy Programme aims to help children become independent readers for life, have an enhanced world view and be capable of making informed choices. Literacy is one of the most foundational empowering skills for today’s world. Whether digital or on print, we are reading all the time. Deep reading enables us to sift through loads of information in print (or digital versions) and make informed choices as an independent critical thinker. Trying to get to the nuanced layers of meaning in a text is a unique human feat that needs to be painstakingly learnt, through both, explicit instruction and a variety of enriching exposure to language and books.
- Project: Comprehensive Literacy for Early Grades
- SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Comprehensive Literacy experience in Room to Read involves explicitly designed reading and writing instruction in Hindi in early grades, based on a strong foundation of three pillars of literacy, namely orality, orthographic expertise and exposure to a variety of text. This comprehensive approach to reading develops both reading skills and a habit of reading among the children, supported by provision of material, training of teachers, regular monitoring and feedback along with community engagement.
However, the year 2020 has been full of challenges and opportunities. Owing to the pandemic, the schools shut down and all face-to-face teacher trainings received a massive set back. One of the worst affected were the early grade children, who, due to the digital divide, did not have access to the range of online educational resources being provided during the lockdown. The risk of learning loss increased manifold, more so for the first-generation learners, who had little or no support at home.
Hence emerged the plan to provide a combination of online and offline resources that aimed to cater to all the relevant stakeholders. Read-aloud videos, flipbooks, literacy-related audio activities, radio and TV programmes, stories through IVR, worksheets, letter cards etc. were some of the resources made available to children on regular basis. With the view to promote learning at home parental engagement, a pictorial parent handbook was shared with the parents. Relevant reading material was provided to teachers, in addition to creation of online courses and audio-visual material.
The online resources were disseminated through appropriate government channels, including Diksha and Whatsapp groups created by teachers. The offline resources were distributed through teachers, volunteers and Room to Read team on the field.
Tangible: Room to Read has benefitted 4.3 million children in India since 2003 and set up more than 9,000 libraries so far. In the year 2020, RtR content reached 1,62,685 teachers, parents and government officials directly and 6,55,980 indirectly. A total of 1,48,85,017 direct messages have been sent out via email, phone and other digital means. 5,66,611 children have received non-digital material including books worksheets, etc. Additionally, 18,439 hours of virtual training and support has been provided to teachers, school leadership, authors and illustrators.
Intangible: The on-ground challenge of reaching each child forced us to think of alternative ways to bridge the digital divide, including radio, TV and offline Literacy kit. This has helped create an environment of literacy at home while empowering the parents to be equal partners in their child’s learning.
To ensure scale and sustainability, it is important to collaborate with the key stakeholders at all levels. RtR in collaboration with the partner organisations, or in some states independently, works with the government system to design and disseminate relevant content to children, teachers and parents.
RtR with a strong Research, Monitoring and Evaluation (RM&E) Department focuses on well-defined research to inform practice, extensive monitoring and support through staff at the field/district/state level and assessment using a version of the internationally accepted Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) tool that is adapted from English to Hindi by experts. In the partnership schools, RtR helps create a sustainable supporting mechanism to both provide teacher support and track progress towards specific outcomes.
Replicability and Scalability
Room to Read works on a scaffolded ‘I do, We do, You do’ approach whereby it first demonstrates the model in selected government schools, then work in close collaboration with the government to scale up the model across the entire district and finally hand over to the government to implement the programme. In the current COVID-19 scenario, increasing adaptation towards online teacher training courses/programmes and relevant resources for both parents and children has provided a unique opportunity to reach the non-intervention states across the country as well.
Learning in the time of pandemic
Lakshmi Kanel, a teacher at Government Primary School, Awaya Phalaya, Barwani, MP was deeply affected by the struggles of her students, many of whom were first-generation learners. In her words, “It was painful to watch children struggle, even worse to see the realization on their faces that they were at a disadvantage”. In late August, Lakshmi received a booklet of worksheets designed by RtR consisting of exercises, puzzles, quizzes, colouring sheets and most importantly, opportunity to observe, explore, articulate and learn. “I was pleasantly surprised by the response we received, the children simply loved them,” she recalls. Arvind a first grader was already close to finishing the exercises, “I want more such books,” he demanded.
Lakshmi saw that her students were now able to learn with minimum support. The fact that they were enjoying learning was influencing their confidence and behaviour too. “They seemed so happy and gleefully brought the worksheets to show me their work,” she says with a satisfied smile.
“Room to Read continues its journey towards the Sustainable Development Goals of providing quality education to both girls and boys. We strongly advocate a comprehensive literacy experience for children so that they become independent readers. We encourage them to be readers with a ‘fluent, feeling brain’ so that they are ready to become responsible citizens in the world that needs them most.”
– Poornima Garg
Deputy Country Director
Room to Read India
“Sustainability is about empowering systems, whether the government or local community-based informal ones. At RtR we focus on working to strengthen the system from within, by working hand in hand with the key stakeholders to ensure impact that is long term. The comprehensive literacy model begins from research-based universal principles and is implemented with inbuilt contextualization, to accommodate multi-grade classrooms, multilingual scenarios, unique nature of the Akshara languages and large-scale implementation in partnership with the government. If we as a nation are serious about our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030, we need to ensure our focus is right. We need to keep the child at the centre of learning and gear for appropriate pedagogy based on scientific principles of reading, even in the face of unexpected challenges like COVID-19.”
– Dr Nidhi Vinayak
Sr Manager (Literacy)
Room to Read India
(Room to Read is an international NGO working in the field of education. Founded in 2000 on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children®, Room to Read’s innovative model focuses on deep and systemic transformation within schools in low-income communities through collaboration with local communities, partner organisations, and governments to develop literacy skills among primary school children and ensure girls education at secondary school level. Room to Read India was established in 2003 and presently have programmes in 9 states, including Chhattisgarh, Delhi NCR, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.)