An update from Book Club in Gweru
March 17 2017

Book Club aims to develop children’s English literacy skills to allow them improved access to all areas of the school curriculum.  There are twenty students currently enrolled in Book Club at Mkoba 4 Primary School in Gweru, Zimbabwe, split into two groups according to ability.  These groups are the same as for other lessons, so the children are already comfortable working with each other. 

Students in group one require more individualised attention than their peers.  Within that group, three students in particular have been struggling with identifying letters and with producing written work.  To ensure they don’t fall behind the rest of the group, these children have been receiving extra support.

As part of learning the alphabet, they were asked to trace over letters to become more familiar with their different shapes, then identify and colour in specific given letters, before moving on to recognise the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters.  Progress has been slow, but positive, so these children will continue to be given specialised attention until they are ready to re-join the group.

In recent lessons, students from both groups have continued with the Florence Ford “Happy Readers” Scheme, which introduces readers to African wild animals as the main characters, such as Larry Lion and Harry Hippo. Of the nine books that make up level one, group one have read five, while group two have now read six.  This reading scheme comes with its own assessment procedure of oral questioning and written work to determine when students are ready to move to the next book.  After reading each book three times, students attempt to spell words from the text and then answer comprehension questions orally, before writing those answers in their workbooks.

 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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