Expanding educational opportunities in Ghana: bilingualism and biliteracy for young learners
Culture of Reading
Strong reading and writing skills grow out of rich experience with text. EQUALL’s Culture of Reading component focused on increasing literate activity in schools and communities to make it a basic part of everyday life.
CAL worked with schools in the South Tongu District, helping teachers expand literate activities across the curriculum, create print-rich classrooms, and generally increase the amount of reading that children do. CAL consultants demonstrated the Teacher Read-Aloud strategy, which calls for teachers to ask questions requiring interpretation of text, rather than just those that ask for recall. Teachers learned to make class books and post pupils’ work on classroom walls. When documentaries were aired and reading sessions held in the communities, teachers asked pupils to write summaries the next day about what they had seen or read or heard.
To strengthen the culture of reading in the area, the South Tongu district organized a reading competition involving all 78 primary schools and key members of the communities. The award ceremonies were attended by traditional rulers, School Management Committee and PTA representatives, and staff from the District Assembly and the District Education Office. Children read in both Ewe and English. Those from the urban area who advanced to the semifinal round read very well, but on average, children in the rural areas children had some difficulty reading the same stories. Winners received literacy materials to take home: story books, dictionaries, stationery, and jigsaw puzzles.
Two new school libraries, one in Sogakope and one in Dabala, helped to increase children’s reading in those schools, both for academic purposes and for pleasure, as well as teachers’ use of books for teaching and learning across the curriculum. On a few occasions, teachers from nearby schools borrowed books from the libraries for pupils’ use. School visits by CAL consultants found children reading a variety of materials during their free time, on their own or in pairs without teacher involvement.
The Culture of Reading initiative drew interest from other schools and other EQUALL districts. The District Education Office in South Tongu extended the Culture of Reading program beyond the pilot schools to all schools in the district, and other EQUALL districts requested training. CAL consultants trained teams of trainers for the expanded effort. Circuit supervisors learned to use a related classroom observation rubric during school support visits to assess the level of literacy activity in classrooms.
Learning from this work informed planning for and developing NALAP Literacy practices. In particular, Teacher Read-Aloud is a fundamental part of Ghanaian language literacy instruction in NALAP.