A positive start to Chinotimba Book Club
April 14 2016

Book Club

This year, ALERT introduced book club to the Chinotimba Primary School, located in the Chinotimba Township, which borders Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe.  This is the largest community Primary School in the area, serving over 1000 students ranging from Grade 1 through to Grade 7.  The Reading Club aims to develop the literacy of the children by following the TESSA syllabus – a syllabus that provides teachers with open educational resources that will enhance the student’s success in the classroom. This project is run with the support of Coventry University, as well volunteers from our partners at Lion Encounter.

During the last week of lessons before the school holiday, the students were introduced to word association and de-association through a series of interactive games designed to develop literacy by providing students with the platform to increase their vocabulary, enhance their understanding of similarities and differences, and work on pronunciation of a variety of words. 

Book Club

Forming a circle, the students began the first activity with the help of volunteers and interns. Learners began by picking a topic, and those that followed had to give a word associated with the topic. Starting with the basics, the learners soon started to come up with more imaginative topics.

To further increase their understanding, the students played ‘I’m going on a picnic’. For this activity, the learners had to go through the alphabet one by one and give an associated word to the picnic for each letter (e.g. I’m going on a picnic and I took an apple, ball, cake, etc.). The level of engagement in these learning games was outstanding and many of the students were encouraging one another as the games became more challenging.

In order to evaluate the development of the students, the TESSA syllabus also provides an assessment that tests their ability to read through a series of words that use a variety of different sounds when read. This assessment is then analysed to provide ALERT with the reading age of each child in the class, which is used to show the progression of the students throughout the year.

As the last class of the term, these assessments were completed by volunteers and staff. Taking individual students from the classroom, the assessments were conducted by a staff member while volunteers gave support and helped ensure the students were comfortable for the duration of the test. 

Book Club

Throughout the assessments, it is evident that the students are gaining confidence and trusting their own ability to read rather than looking for constant nods of approval from staff and volunteers as had been done previously.  Slight improvement from the students is shown within the assessment results, which is a direct indicator of the increase in regular attendance at the reading club and the initiative students have begun to take to continue to improve their reading outside of the classroom. The term has been a positive start to an essential program that will continue to benefit the students throughout the school year.


About Book Club

English is the official language of both Zambia and Zimbabwe, and without good proficiency in English reading and writing, students will likely be excluded from many aspects of active citizenship, including employment opportunities.   English proficiency also helps students to better understand all their school subjects, and to be able to tackle exams, which are given in English.  In partnership with Coventry University, ALERT has established English literacy programs at weekly Book Clubs to improve children’s English literacy levels and foster a love of reading.  Pupils attending book clubs are tested to establish their current reading age, and then tailored, locally appropriate, assistance is provided to improve literacy using educational materials from AXIS Education, TESSA and Happy Readers.  A library system provides pupils access to a wide-range of reading level appropriate books.


About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)

English literacy courses are one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres.  The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students.  Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy.  In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students.  Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies / entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training.  The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK).   The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.


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