Update on Twabuka Book Club in Livingstone
November 19 2015

Update on Twabuka Book Club in Livingstone

Twabuka School is the school where Book Club was first launched in Livingstone, Zambia, and children of grades 5-7 have been attending our Thursday afternoon sessions for more than three years now. With a higher proportion of students attending Book Club passing their grade 7 exams (which are in English) last academic year, compared with those that did not, the news has spread throughout Simoonga and Sinde villages. There are now over 60 children from this area signed up to Book Club at this school, just one of three schools in rural communities around Livingstone at which we operate the programme.  

Over the last four weeks students have been answering letters sent from school children in the UK. In the first week they read the letters in small groups and compared the information about living in Europe to their own life here in Zambia. They filled in tables with similarities as well as differences, and discussed these in small groups. During the next week the students focussed on writing answers to the letters. Students were taught how to start and end a letter, and discussed what information could be interesting for an English child to read about. The volunteer leading the session developed substitution tables (from which words can be chosen and put together into completed sentences according to what needs to be said) which gave the children ideas of how to start their sentences, but still gave them enough space for their own creativity.

Book Club 1

During the following session the children read through each other’s letters and gave each other feedback on how to edit spelling mistakes, or how to write certain information more clearly.  Finally, after a last check of the letters by our teaching team, the children fixed the last remaining spelling mistakes and added some drawings and decoration on the papers.

The letters have now been scanned and emailed back to England.

Book Club 2

During all Book Clubs there is a short session of phonics and sounds training, which helps the children to decode unknown words for themselves.  English uses sounds that are very uncommon in African languages, so our students sometimes struggle to pronounce certain words correctly. A good and fun way to practise pronunciation is by saying ‘tongue twisters’. They train the children to pronounce the words correctly, as well as build up vocabulary.  On the 12th of November there was a lot of giggles when a volunteer introduced the “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck…”- tongue twister to the lesson. We aim to build up the children’s strengths and include them into our teaching methods so these strengths act as bridges for learning.  Knowing that most of the children like music, dancing and have a good sense of rhythm, the introduction of the tongue twister was combined with a body percussion rhythm that was picked up very quickly. 

Book Club 3

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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