An Update on Book Club Progress in Gweru
October 30 2017

Book Club aims to develop children’s English literacy skills to allow them improved access to all areas of the school curriculum.  Book Club students from Mkoba 4 Primary School in Gweru, Zimbabwe, work in three different groups according to ability.  Learners in group one receive the most support, group two students are of average level, while those in group three are the most advanced.

This term, Book Club began with revision work on Stage Two of the Oxford Reading Tree, revisiting stories with a focus on learning new words, for example: come, play, went, and look.  Each book was read several times, as repetition is key for these students.  They were then asked to write a summary of the story in their own words.  Summarising is important, as it allows teachers to monitor comprehension and helps students understand the organisational structure of a text.  The summaries were well written, showing that students understood what they had read.  Spelling key words from the story came next, with the whole class achieving high scores.

Fluency, the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression, is important as it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.  Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus their attention on the meaning of the text instead.  To ensure that students could not only read and pronounce words correctly, but also understand their meaning, they read words such as want, water, went, and after a number of times before putting them into sentences.

In each stage of the Oxford Reading Tree scheme, new words are introduced to increase vocabulary. Following revision of Stage Two, Mkoba 4 students have been progressing through the subsequent stages, verbally describing pictures and reading the accompanying text out loud.  While their written sentence construction initially lacked confidence, with encouragement, the children are now tackling longer sentences; from ‘Mom is pointing at a dress’ to ‘I see Mom pointing at a yellow dress’.  

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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