Teaching Children to Read and Write
For children in the developing world (and anywhere else, for that matter), learning to read is a critical first step on the path out of poverty. In Guatemala, children who are able to read and think critically—the two most important outcomes of our program—have far greater capacity to find living-wage jobs as adults. They are more likely to continue with school and are better equipped to start businesses of their own. Readers are also more likely to become seekers and imagine a life beyond abject poverty. And with the ability to read they will have the skills they need to begin to realize that life.
When it comes to learning to read, children in Guatemala face tremendous challenges. Books are rare, illiteracy is common among adults, and few children are read to in the home. Many have never even put their hands on a book by the time they start school. In addition, with 21 officially recognized Mayan languages, many of the children begin school unable to speak Spanish. Because of this, children in Guatemala begin their education without the fundamental pre-literacy skills we take for granted in the developed world. Once children begin school, their challenges are compounded by an under funded educational system and classrooms that are nearly empty of books. These hurdles are made even higher by the fact that teachers in Guatemala need only a high school diploma to teach, often read at the 7th grade level, and have yet to develop the habit of reading themselves.
High-Impact Literacy Activities
Through our Reading for Life program, each year we train hundreds of teachers, who in turn engage thousands of children in classroom and library-based literacy activities. These activities are year-round and culturally appropriate for the village settings where we work. In classrooms the activities include literacy development techniques based on best practices. In libraries and during school vacations, there are book lending and school-break reading programs. Compelling to teachers, librarians and children, our Reading for Life activities jump-start literacy skills and encourage a love and habit of reading.