USAID Read Liberia and the Ministry of Education on Friday, March 13, 2020, kicked off a reading demonstration program to mark International Reading Month, an effort to promote reading, especially for children in kindergarten through second grade.
Nearly 200 people including parents, students and teachers gathered at the Lango Lippaye School in Kakata, Margibi County for the event that featured testimonies from parents and teachers about the impact of the Read Liberia program and first-and second graders showcasing their reading, spelling, and comprehension skills.
The participating schools included: Save the Children All- Girls School, E. J. Yancy, KRTTI Demonstration School, Reverend Perry S. Togbah School, Gwee Memorial Public School and Cole Town Public School.
Read Liberia is a five-year Ministry of Education program with funding and technical support from USAID and implemented by RTI International. The aim is to support the Liberian government’s efforts to improve early grade reading in public schools.
Read Liberia works with 640 schools in six counties: Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Bong, Nimba and Lofa. Since its inception in September 2017, the program has trained a little over 1,300 teachers and distributed 108,608 teaching and reading books and supplemental readers to guide the teachers in teaching reading and support students reading at home with their families. Read Liberia’s Social Community Mobilizers engage parents and communities to increase early grade school enrollment, promote reading at home and develop reading spaces in the targeted counties.
Victoria Mulbah, who has two grandsons at KRTTI Demonstration School, lauded Read Liberia for helping her grandsons develop a love for reading.
“My grandsons are really making me proud,’’ she said. “I want to thank you for teaching them to read. I make them read every evening. Thank you also for the books.’’
Jartu Dunnor has three children at Save the Children All-Girls School. She said she missed out on an education, so she pushes her children, so that they can learn to read and become productive citizens in the future. The Read Liberia program motivated her to get involved in the Parent Teachers Association.
“I like Read Liberia program because they gave my children books that they bring home to read,’’ Dunnor said. “Now, I’m telling other parents to support the program because our children are our future.’’
During the program, the students impressed the crowd with their understanding of reading passages, pronunciation skills and identifying words from a series of sentences.
Dr. Teresiah Wambui Gathenya, Senior Education Advisor at USAID Liberia, praised the children for their performance and thanked the Ministry of Education for supporting early grade reading in the country. She also underscored the reason USAID prioritizes early grade reading, because a good foundation will prepare students to read science, math and other subjects for life.
“This is the 21st Century, if you can’t read when everything is turning electronic, you will be left behind,’’ she said. “In an era where we have money coming through mobile phones, if you can’t read, somebody will take your money. If you can’t read, you will have to depend on someone to read the ATM for you and you might lose all your money. Everything depends on reading.’’
Michael Kharim, Coordinator of Parent Teachers Association (PTA) at the Ministry of Education, thanked USAID Liberia for supporting early grade reading in Liberia. He also thanked the parents and teachers for embracing the program.
The reading demonstration, he said, is a testament to teachers’ and parents’ commitment to support early grade reading.
As part of the program, Read Liberia and the Ministry of Education engaged local businesses to support the program by donating refreshments and prizes for the students, teachers and parents.
Some of the students who participated in the reading demonstration said the prizes motivated them to continue reading.
Elijah Perry, a first grader at E.J. Yancy School, thanked his teachers for helping improve his reading. “I love to read because I know it will help me in the future,’’ he said.Perry and Johnson Harris, also of E.J. Yancy, topped the reading demonstration exercise. Johnson, a second grader, said he likes to read because he wants to become a doctor.
“Being a doctor is not easy, so I need to work on my reading,’’ he said. “I thank Read Liberia for supporting me.’’
Massa Morris, a first grader at Gwee Memorial, said she was proud to participate in the reading demonstration.
“I feel really good about participating in the program,’’ she said.
Read Liberia had planned more reading demonstrations for the five other counties, but those plans have been put on hold following the government’s decision to ban all public gatherings due to the Corona Virus outbreak. The reading events will resume when the public gathering ban is lifted, and schools reopen.
The program in Kakata was supported by the following businesses: RAMI & Rocky Business Center, Musa Dolo Provision Shop, United Commodities Inc., Lofa Mineral Water Company, Uncle J. Business Center, Sapoe Entertainment Center, Mamadu B. Diallo Business Center, New Creation Business Center and Aqua Trust Mineral Water Company.