As part of the USAID Education Strategy, we are focused on improving reading for 100 million primary school students. We are supporting a movement to get All Children Reading. Our core approach is focused on improving teaching, making sure children have enough time to learn to read, using a language they understand, making sure they have access to reading materials, and testing to ensure they are meeting goals. These five “Ts” are key to reading success.
Reading is the most important skill that children learn as they start school. Reading success in elementary school leads to success in other subjects, higher education and life. And yet, in some sub-Saharan African countries, children who have attended school for five years have a 40 percent chance of being illiterate.
Reading saves lives. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5. Educated women are more likely to send their children to school and better able to protect their children from malnutrition, HIV infection, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Reading impacts financial stability. As many as 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills. That is equivalent to a 12 percent drop in the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day. Research has found that countries that have experienced surges in literacy rates by 20 percent to 30 percent have seen simultaneous increases in GDP of 8 percent to 16 percent.
USAID’s approach to improving reading and literacy revolves around five goals, also known as the five “Ts”:
- More time devoted to teaching reading
- Better techniques for teaching reading
- More texts in the hands of children
- Teaching children in the mother tongue (a language they speak and understand)
- Testing childrens’ reading progress
Time. Reading has to be taught every day. Teachers and administrators need to maximize the amount of time spent on reading. Children also need additional practice time. Increased time spent learning and practicing reading results in success.
Teaching. To be effective, teachers need to teach the five components of beginning reading: phonemic awareness (knowing the sounds of their language), phonics (matching
the sounds to print), vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.
Text. In order to learn to read, children require ample reading materials. Materials don’t have to be expensive, but they must match children’s reading levels, and every classroom needs multiple titles so children may strengthen their reading skills.
Mother Tongue. Beginning reading instruction must be conducted in a language that children speak and understand. Acquiring solid reading skills in their first language allows children to learn content and to become successful learners of other languages.
Testing. Assessment should be conducted in classrooms to ensure that teachers are aware of children’s progress and instructional needs. Assessment must also be conducted at the national level to support data-driven policy making.
USAID and our partners are dedicated to pursuing reading improvements because they change lives.