In Summary, Book Club is a Success
August 22 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.

At the beginning of the month, students moved up to level two of the Oxford Reading Tree scheme.  These stories are design to be humorous to engage and motivate young readers.  They are also more challenging, with a greater amount of words and complete sentences than in the previous level.  

As usual, the students read the story aloud first. This is important because it:

  • Enhances fluency
  • Strengthens comprehension
  • Helps students develop critical reading skills
  • Improves competence in grammar, memory, attention, sequencing, and understanding cause and effect
  • Helps struggling readers learn to use expressive oral reading skills, making them stronger readers and improving accuracy and word recognition

Afterwards, they constructed sentences using new words from the text to ensure they had understood the meaning correctly.  There were some problems with spelling and grammar, but comprehension was strong.

In the next session, once a new story had been read aloud, the students were asked to summarise the narrative.  The ability to summarise plays an important role in the comprehension and retelling of stories.  It helps the reader remember what they have read, allowing them to share that knowledge with others.  The summaries given by the students showed that they not only understood the story, but that their sentence construction is improving.  

By the last session of the month, students were ready to progress to level three.  This level provides richer story content to help develop language comprehension and decoding skills.  Stories build on the reading skills from earlier levels, are slightly longer in duration, and sentences include a range of high frequency vocabulary with repetitive text to continue to build fluency.  When asked to retell level three stories in summary, students were able to do so with confidence and accuracy.

Through repetition, these students are becoming more confident in their reading; willing to attempt the pronunciation of new words and always showing an eagerness to learn.

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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