The Literacy Benefits of Book Club
July 7 2016

At the ALERT Education Centre in Gweru, around 120 students from Takunda Primary School are participating in Book Club.   Assessments are ongoing; with students progressing on to the next book in the Happy Readers course only after successful completion of a lower level one.

A variety of activities are used as part of the course to aid learning.  For example, a story is read to the class, who are then asked questions to test comprehension, or dictation is used with students writing down what they have heard. 

In Livingstone, where Book Club operates at three schools, students were assessed by visiting academics from Coventry University during June, as part of research to evaluate the three different English literacy methods.  Whilst the data on which teaching system has caused the greatest improvements has yet to be analyzed, it is abundantly clear that English literacy has improved tremendously across the board.

Back in Gweru, our mobile library is up and running, with thanks to Margret Ethelston, a past volunteer, who has helped to equip the library with novels and other learning materials.  During May and June, each pupil using the library borrowed, on average, four novels.  For each book borrowed, pupils were asked to write a summary on what they had read.  These summaries are used to help identify learning areas that pupils are struggling with and to prepare lessons to help them improve on these.  Some of the lessons carried out from identifying these needs include;  sounds of the letters of the alphabet, use of vowels and how they affect the sounds of letters, verbs and action words, use of tenses; changing words from present to past tense, and making sentences in the past tense, and spelling.

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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