Over 13,000 rural Guatemalan children are learning to read from teachers and librarians trained by Child Aid. Our goal is to ensure that we use the most effective means of increasing educational opportunity for children. We devote resources and attention to measuring and evaluating our work.
Our program is aimed at bringing opportunity to Central American communities that have few educational resources for children. To improve literacy skills and inspire reading among impoverished children, the five key goals of Reading for Life are:
- To ensure that children have access to relevant, age-appropriate books in schools and at home.
- To improve teaching methods among educators in order to increase children’s reading abilities.
- To establish, improve and support rural libraries so they can serve as hubs for reading promotion and education.
- To help new readers develop critical thinking skills, which in turn support educational advancement.
- To establish in children the habit and love of reading.
Child Aid’s literacy staff members provide field reports that contribute to our evaluation process. We document, on a regular basis, the participation and progress of program beneficiaries including teachers, librarians and children. We track the frequency and extent of teachers’ employment of Reading for Life methods in their classrooms; the involvement of children in classroom-based reading activities; the use of Child Aid books in schools and libraries; outreach activity by librarians to promote reading in their villages; and qualitative improvements in teaching skills based on classroom observation and evaluation. We monitor library attendance and circulation rates and the enrollment rates of children in after-school and summer reading programs. The findings of this tracking and evaluation are included in the timely reports and updates provided to Child Aid supporters and grantors.
Child Aid is currently instituting a far-reaching process of evaluation and on-going quality improvement monitoring.
Following accepted practice in program evaluation, we began with a formative evaluation. This refers to a method for judging the value of a program as it is developing: How well do the written materials and methods of a program fit with best practices for achieving the program’s desired ends? In our case, this means increasing literacy through more effective school instruction and library utilization.
We began the formative evaluation by having program staff identify the barriers to literacy that the Reading for Life program was designed to address and overcome. We then did a structured bibliographic search to assess best practices in education (especially in a developing world context) for overcoming those barriers. Next we compared the Reading for Life curriculum to those best practices.
The results of this phase strongly endorsed the structure and content of the Reading for Life work. Next, we wanted to know how well we were implementing the Reading for Life program on-the-ground. For this work, we hired Kristin Rosekrans, a highly respected evaluator who had worked in both Latin America and Africa on the design and evaluation of literacy programs in association with USAID and other well-established groups.
Ms. Rosekrans interviewed our staff, teachers, librarians, school directors and district superintendents, both on her own and with John van Keppel, our Guatemala Program Director. Her final assessment (an Executive Summary of which can be found at http://child-aid.org/kristin-rosekrans/) was positive. It also included recommendations on how implementation could be improved, all of which have now been implemented. Along the way, we’ve also received an independent endorsement from Deborah Greebon, an International Education Specialist .
What Others Have Said
We are proud to have received endorsements from leading experts in the field of international education. Read what two of them have said about Child Aid’s Reading for Life program:
International Education Consultant
International Education Specialist
Fulbright Fellow Guatemala
Master of International Education Policy, Harvard University