Fostering a lifelong love of reading
Imagine you are seven years old. If you live in rural Guatemala, your parents are likely Mayan, subsistence farmers, illiterate, and dropped out of school before the sixth grade. Quite possibly, you have never come in contact with a book, either at home or in school. Your teachers probably received little more than a high school education, and lack the training and resources they need to make a meaningful difference in your life.
Four out of five fifth-graders in Guatemala show “unsatisfactory” achievement on reading tests (as reported by the World Bank). Poorly-trained primary-school teachers use ineffective classroom techniques that emphasize rote memorization instead of comprehension and critical thinking.
Boredom and lack of enthusiasm for learning contribute to high dropout rates: eight out of ten rural indigenous children who begin first grade will leave school before completing sixth grade. Without adequate reading skills, they enter adult life unprepared to deal with its complexities, such as understanding a bank statement, a voting ballot, or the label on a bottle of medicine. They remain targets of exploitation and injustice, and the cycle of poverty continues for them and their families.
CoEd’s Culture of Reading Program (CORP) delivers training in effective instruction to primary-school teachers and provides them with high-quality children’s books to facilitate reading in the classroom. Better-trained teachers help transform their students into more active learners. With increased reading and writing abilities, indigenous children achieve more in school, continue their education longer, and overcome the challenges and struggles exacerbated by low literacy.
How the Program Works
In Guatemala, most educational development projects lack a plan for long-term survival. CORP is different. Our program provides sustainable and ongoing support to teachers and gives them both the tools and the knowledge they need to succeed over the long term.
Watch the video below to see how the program transforms rural Guatemalan classrooms.
CORP draws on the Concentrated Language Encounter (CLE) methodology. Developed by literacy experts and used extensively throughout the developing world, CLE has been shown to produce upwards of 60% gains in measures of reading and writing.
Teachers participate in 60 hours of group training in effective reading pedagogy, and they benefit from ongoing individual support and instruction. Participants also receive approximately 60-200 (depending on grade level and class size) high-quality children’s books, which enable them to effectively implement the program—and read to their students every day.
In a CORP Classroom
Teachers use the books to practice strategies for reading aloud that gain children’s interest and engage them in critical thinking. Students act out the story, bringing the text to life. They also retell it, using their own words and drawings to demonstrate their understanding. Children further develop essential literacy skills by authoring original stories on topics or themes important to their lives. For example, seven year-old CORP student Fernando Augusto Gonzalez, separated from his parents at age three when they migrated to the U.S. to find work, authored a book about the night sky. He described seeing his parents’ faces in the stars, and how this helps him feel connected to them, even though they live far away.
CORP’s simple and straightforward methodology rapidly builds Spanish vocabulary, strengthens reading comprehension, builds confidence and competence working with written language, and makes the learning process more meaningful. For the first time, young people in these schools are enthusiastic about reading and writing. As CORP teacher Marcelino Axpuac reports, “My kids are reading! They care about school, and so do their parents. This program is making such a big difference in their lives.”
CORP achieves sustainability by building local capacity. Training native teachers and working within the rural school system to promote literacy creates permanent and lasting change in program communities. The teachers who participate in CORP increase their skills, share their knowledge and best practices with educators in other schools, and promote literacy in their classrooms.
The children who benefit from the program take their improved reading abilities, as well as actual books they have authored at school, and share them with their families, friends, and neighbors. They become vital links in the chain for promoting a lifelong culture of reading in their homes, their schools, and their communities.
“Kids get to school very early in the mornings just to go into the classrooms and read!”
—Carolyn Johnson, CORP Program Director
Measurable results studies, conducted in 2012 with the help of independent researchers from Marroquin University, indicate that CORP students are showing 50% increases in reading skills like vocabulary, speed, and comprehension, compared to the results of children at the same age level before the CORP program was introduced.
CORP teachers also report a marked increase in the number of children passing to the next grade level. Irma Natalia Con Cuc says that before the program came to her school, her students lacked motivation and showed little interest in reading. Through CORP, they learn more and enjoy the process—and so does Irma. “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be part of this program,” she says. “Every day, I am excited to use my new skills. And my students enjoy school now.”