The Latest News from Book Club
April 20 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.

This month, Book Club students have successfully completed the last three books in Level One of the Florence Ford "Happy Readers" scheme, a total of nine different books in all.

In small groups, the students took turns to read a page each, with support to pronounce some of the more difficult words.  On completion of each book, comprehension questions were answered orally and a spelling test carried out.  The majority of students performed well in both tasks, achieving at least 60%.

In the following lesson, flash cards were used for reading practice of key words.  Students had to read a word and then put it into a sentence, before moving on to a worksheet to match short sentences to pictures, for example: ‘The bee lands on the flower’.

To end the lesson with a physical activity, the children were taken outside and asked to form a circle.  A community volunteer stood in the middle holding a ball, which was then thrown to students at random.  Whoever caught the ball had to tell the rest of the group what their favourite food was.  As spoken English is a challenge for the children, this fun exercise encouraged them to articulate their thoughts, as well as acting as a confidence boost for the quieter members of the class.

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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