You are never alone with a book
May 23 2018

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 two different groups according to ability.  Learners in group one receive the most support, while group two students are more advanced.

From the beginning of the year, group two students have been working their way through stages eight and nine of the Happy Readers reading scheme, while those in group one have been tackling levels four and five. 

During a recent lesson, group two were reading ‘Betty Bear’s Holiday’.  After reading aloud and receiving support with any hard to pronounce words, the students were given comprehension questions to assess their understanding of the story.  They then practised spelling new words and used them to construct sentences.  In the following lesson, each student was given a different book.  At first, they read it to themselves and then were given one-to-one support to read the book again aloud.  The meaning of new words was explained and any help needed with pronunciation was given.  All students read with confidence and showed an improvement in fluency.

While this was going on, group one students were busy reading their own book, ‘Harry Hippo’.  As the less able group, these students struggled with a lot of the vocabulary and so required extra support.   After reading the story, they wrote down new words and their meanings and then practised spelling them and putting them into sentences.  After some revision, the students became more confident.    

Reading aloud is an important component of every Book Club lesson, introducing young readers to new vocabulary and giving them practice in reading with fluency and expression.  By doing so, it helps children to begin to appreciate the concept of reading for pleasure.

In the next lesson, students were tasked with completing a worksheet called ‘Missing Letters’.  They were given a series of incomplete words with a picture next to each one providing a visual clue to what that word could be, for example: ‘_uler’ would be accompanied by a drawing of a ruler.  The students did a good job with this exercise, so moved onto a different worksheet.  This time, they had to match the correct word to the correct picture.  Again, this managed this task without any difficulty.  Students in both groups are continuing to show an improvement in their confidence to read aloud and in their willingness 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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