In partnership with RTI International we are increasing parental and community engagement in supporting student reading. This is part of the Malawi Early Grade Reading Improvement Activity (MERIT) which is designed to assist the Government of Malawi’s efforts to improve reading skills of Malawian students in Standards 1-4 nationwide.
Partner: RTI International
Dates: 2015 - 2020
The majority of learners in Standards 1-4 are unable to read and many lack essential pre-reading skills, such as recognising letters of the alphabet and their sounds. If students do not develop these skills in the first year of school, they are unlikely to be able to catch up later. In 2013 76% of Standard 2 students could not read a single word of a prompted story, and 86% could not answer a single reading comprehension question in Chichewa. To address this, a culture of reading needs to be created both inside and outside the classroom.
This project intends to create opportunities outside of school for young learners to practice literacy skills; to build parents’ understanding of the importance of learning to read early, and how they can support this in school and at home; and to enable parents to understand how well their children are learning to read in school.
This supports the overall aim of the MERIT programme which is to improve literacy for learners in Standards 1–4 across Malawi.
Link will take activities which have proven to be effective in our Family Literacy project in Dedza and expand these to other areas of Malawi. We will draw on the expertise of our Link partners in Ghana, Uganda and Ethiopia, RTI and other early literacy experts in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce new ways to engage parents in supporting their children to read and write.
These activities will include:
- After school reading clubs – which use a range of local language and locally available resources to develop pre-reading and reading skills in a fun way.
- Village-based reading circles - run by locally recruited volunteers/reading circle mentors.
- Reading radio programmes – to support literacy activities at home and encourage children and parents to participate in the reading clubs and reading circles.
- Reading fairs - to demonstrate and celebrate learners’ achievements with parents and to raise awareness of the value of participation in reading activities among the community.
- Teaching assistants – to provide one-on-one or small-group reading activities during lessons or work in turns with groups of students to reduce the effective class size during reading lessons.
- A Social and Behaviour Change campaign - to understand the points of view and constraints faced by parents in relation to their children learning to read and to build their understanding of how children learn to read, develop positive attitudes about how they can contribute to that learning, and motivate and mobilize them to take action that does so.
- School Report Cards and school reviews - which involve the community to assess how well schools are performing in general and how well children are learning to read in particular.
 Capper, Joanne, et. al., “Early Grade Reading Impact Evaluation Baseline Report,” November, 2013.