Learning to Read
While the Deepalaya Community Library at Delhi’s Sheikh Sarai has grown significantly in membership in the last one year, it has not escaped us that reading fluency amongst many of our readers lags behind their peers from more privileged backgrounds. In June 2016, a team led by Michael Creighton conducted an assessment of nearly 100 children from the ages of 6-16. The assessment required children to read continuously for 1 minute from selected Hindi texts (suited to their age-group). The total number of words read and the number of errors were noted as well as reading behaviors such as whether students were observed correcting their own errors. This was the basis for evaluating fluency-levels.
The goal was to build fluency and enhance reading comprehension in Hindi. We chose Hindi for many reasons, but primarily because it mother tongue literacy is not just good in its own right, but it supports literacy in other languages as well.
Four groups of 4-7 students came for an hour a day, every day. The idea was to give individual attention to each child, helping them understand their blocks & mistakes and overcoming them through repeated readings of different types of texts ranging from picture books to comics to longer & more complex books with fewer pictures. Every night students took home childrens’ magazines to read from for ‘homework.’
Everything was aimed at giving students a variety of experience actually reading extended amounts of text: partner reading; independent reading; repeated readings of the same text. Students read daily both from leveled readers and from books and magazines of their own choosing.
“They borrow lots of books, especially after library period,” said Namex, who has taught first grade at the school for 28 years, “so many that I barely manage to write them all down in the logbook!” She giggled with delight.
All of this was new to the teachers at Kampong Thom Primary School, too. Until recently, they hadn’t known how to show their students how much fun reading can be.
“Where is my watch??” said Namex, turning the colorful page. Her face grew animated as she lowered her voice to make the sound of a clock ticking: “Tick! Tick! Tick!” Every first grader in the library was about to burst with anticipation.
Even though Namex Pen had shared stories with her students many times in class before, her method had been to read from a government-issued textbook peppered with bland illustrations, then ask them to summarize the story. They’d never had a library before. Reading seemed like a chore and her students were easily distracted.
Before the training course, Kampong teacher Sokmol Khit only knew about one reading activity?—?read aloud. Now she knows how to pair reading activities with the right grade. She likes the shared reading activity for kindergarteners because they can learn about sound and intonation while reading along.
“It used to be only the librarians were trained,” says Sokmol. “Now that every teacher in school is involved in promoting reading I can see a huge improvement.”