Reading: The Spark that Lights up Children’s Eyes


Cec Cecilia Ochoa, Senior Specialist for Basic Education & Literacy

Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t able to read. What basic tasks would you be unable to do? What simple pleasures would you be unable to enjoy? 

Reading is a skill many of us take for granted. But for millions of children in the countries and communities where Save the Children works, reading remains a struggle.   

Parents typically have little time or training to help children learn the alphabet, or to make the link between the words they speak and the letters on a page. Books are few and far between, and are written in the school language, which is different from what children speak at home.   

Teachers without training often teach reading in the same way they were taught—mainly through drills and repetition, with limited time spent on teaching key skills or on ways to learn as you read text.    Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program promotes training teachers and creating a culture of reading outside of the classroom. Photo Credit: Brent Stirton for Save the Children

Save the Children’s Literacy Boost program promotes training teachers and
creating a culture of reading outside of the classroom. 

Photo Credit:  Brent
Stirton for Save the Children

In 2007, Save the Children set out to measure how well children in the early grades in Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia could read. The results were startling.  We found an alarming number of children unable to read even a single word in a text or passage.  

We decided we needed to do something to change this. That’s how Save the Children developed Literacy Boost, our signature program for helping children learn to read. Here is how it works: 

Through Literacy Boost, children in the early grades are given opportunities to practice their reading skills both in-school and in their homes and communities. Book Banks of storybooks in the local language are provided so that children have materials to read other than their textbooks.  

Community volunteers also are mobilized to conduct weekly Reading Camps for children, where children can listen to stories, read books, and play games to improve their reading skills. Parents are coached on activities they can do with their children at home to improve language skills, even if they are not literate themselves. 

Teachers are trained in strategies for teaching the five skills needed for reading. And children’s reading skills are measured at the start and end of the school year to track their progress and identify where they still need more help.   

During a recent trip to Nepal, I was heartened by how the schools and communities had embraced the program.

“Before Literacy Boost started here in Kailali, there were no storybooks for children available in the community,” Anita, a Reading Camp facilitator told me. “Now, they have story books and fables in both Nepali and Tharu. This has brought the habit of reading to the community. Even parents are more interested about reading now.” 

The results are encouraging. In a year’s time, children who participated in Literacy Boost had increased their reading scores significantly compared to those from non-assisted schools.  

But it is the spark that lights up children’s eyes when they talk about books that especially inspires me.

“I like the stories, especially the one with the monkey,” said Kamal, age 7, one of Literacy Boost’s participants in Nepal. “When I borrow a book to take home, I can read it to my whole family. We can all enjoy the story together.”

Ishwor Khatry, Save the Children’s tireless education coordinator in Kailali, shares my sentiment. He said, “Through this program, we can really see that we are making a difference.”

Cruel Irony: No Clean Water in Flood-affected Pakistan

Iwoolverton 

Ian Woolverton, Save the Children Media Manager

Sukkur District, Pakistan

Friday, August 27, 2010

 

 I had to choke back tears as I watched a doctor supported by Save the Children give Ramzan, a 2-year-old boy, fluids in a feverous attempt to reverse the devastating effects of severe dehydration. 

Ramzan’s mother, Hajra, looked on anxiously as the doctor explained that she must help her son drink electrolytes to replace lost fluids. 

Make no mistake, Ramzan is gravely ill.  He has reached a dangerous level of dehydration brought on by watery diarrhea. No wonder. For the last fifteen days mother and child have lived on a baking concrete floor in one of the hundreds of camps that have sprung up in Sukkur district. 

Before floodwaters broke the banks of the River Indus, Ramzan lived with his eleven brothers and sisters in Jacobabad. Now they are destitute and face an uncertain future. 

At the camp Dr. Sheikh impressed upon me his concerns for a second wave of disaster — an outbreak of flood-related illnesses like diarrhea, malaria and skin infections. 

These types of preventable but communicable conditions send shivers down the spine. With still pools of water visible in most camps, reported cases of malaria are rising.

Biggest killer of children

But watery diarrhea concerns us most.  It robs the body of fluids, which can lead to heat stroke, kidney failure and death. 

The sad truth: diarrhea is the biggest killer of children under the age of five. Yet low-tech, low-cost solutions like packets of oral rehydration salts can help prevent children from becoming dangerously dehydrated. 

In many cases families are sourcing water from stagnant pools, which often contain human and animal waste.  This might sound ghastly, but what would you do if your son or daughter were desperately thirsty and drifting in and out of consciousness? Might you accept the risks of drinking dirty water in the hope of alleviating the suffering of your child? 

Factor in the stifling heat — temperatures soars high into the forties — and drinking contaminated water might not seem such a bad idea.  There’s a cruel irony at play in flood-affected Pakistan. Despite being swamped by billions of gallons of water, children and families cannot get enough safe water. 

____________________

 

Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.

 

“If Education Can Still Go Forward, Haiti Has a Chance”


Susan-Warner-in-Haiti-2010 Susan Warner-Lambert
Manager of Photography

June 28th, 2010

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

I recently returned from my first trip to Haiti. I took the photo below at the École Eddy Pascal School in Port-au-Prince. Their school building was destroyed in the January 12th earthquake. With the help of Save the Children, the school is now set up in several tents.

I chose to highlight this picture from their recess activities because I like the action and composition, but also because it represents to me what is right about Haiti. There is so much needed in infrastructure and resources, but as long as education can still go forward for the next generation, then Haiti has a chance.

I encourage you to post your comments and/or questions!

Haiti jump roping


Photo credit: Susan Warner – Save the Children 2010

Learn more about our emergency response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Using Art Education and Therapy to Help Preschoolers in Mozambique Fight the Effects of HIV/AIDS

Veronica Photo Veronica

Guemulene Village, Gaza District, Mozambique

June 15, 2010

In
the rural areas of Mozambique where Save the Children works, almost all
children have been affected by the AIDS crisis, losing family members
and teachers to the disease.   

Save the Children, through funding from the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the 2007 Idol Gives Back
TV fundraising event, began piloting an innovative program using visual
arts to help give children a voice to their emotions about difficult
events in their every day lives in rural Mozambican preschools or
“escolinhas” in 2008.

As part of the “Healing and Education through Art” or HEART program, preschool teachers participated
in three training sessions. Monica, a
preschool teacher, shares her thoughts about how the training has helped improve her work with children:

“Children need to feel free to express whatever happens to them – good or bad.  But I cannot force them to express their feelings or thoughts.  Still, I am surprised at how much young children remember what they see and hear, but do not have the language to express themselves. 

We created a space at our preschools with art activities for children. Through art, children can finally express themselves and things they remember seeing and hearing.

Let me tell you about a little girl in our preschool named Gracindabel. When she first arrived at school, she would not speak or participate in activities with other classmates. She would often urinate in the classroom. During art activities, she would break her pencil or start drawing violently on her paper.  

My training had taught me to recognize the signs of a child who needs special attention. I was patient with Gracindabel, and over time, during the art activities, I noticed that she started to talk more with her classmates, participate in group work, and stopped going to the bathroom in the classroom. 

One day, she made a doll out of clay with one arm. She then went on to tell me a detailed imaginary story about a girl whose arm was bitten off by the crocodile that lives in the river behind her home. This was such a remarkable change from a child who started out afraid to speak or participate in class!

Before the teacher trainings, when I saw a child like Gracindabel who didn’t want to participate, talk or play, I would just let that child be and not do anything. Now, I have learned ways to find out what’s wrong with the child, helping that child to try to resolve her problems. I like my job so much now and have a lot of fun with the children.”

Using Art Education and Therapy to Help Preschoolers in Mozambique Fight the Effects of HIV/AIDS: Part Two


Monica photo (2) Monica

Chizavanae Village, Gaza District, Mozambique

June 15, 2010

In
the rural areas of Mozambique where Save the Children works, almost all
children have been affected by the AIDS crisis, losing family members
and teachers to the disease.   

Save the Children, through funding from the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the 2007 Idol Gives Back
TV fundraising event, began piloting an innovative program using visual
arts to help give children a voice to their emotions about difficult
events in their every day lives in rural Mozambican preschools or
“escolinhas” in 2008.

As part of the “Healing and Education through Art” or HEART program, preschool teachers participated
in three training sessions. Monica, a
preschool teacher, shares her thoughts about how the training has helped improve her work with children:

“Through the training, I learned how to listen to what children say,
and how to ask questions about what they draw or paint. I learn a lot
from doing this.

For instance, one day this past March during art class, one of my
students, Jameson, decided to draw what he had done the previous
weekend.  He began to draw a cross and flowers, which led to a
discussion among his classmates.  I heard him tell the other children
that his mother had died that weekend and his drawing showed where he
had spent his Saturday.  While talking, Jameson added sand on his
drawing to make the shape of a grave.  And, then, one of his classmates
picked a flower to place on top of the grave as a memorial. 

My training also taught me that it is okay to allow children like
Jameson to express sad things in their life and it’s not always bad to
draw about sad things.”

“Ugly Betty” Art Auction Raises Money for School in Mali

America_event_headshot

Michelle Morrison, Save the Children, internet communications intern

New York, New York 

April 12, 2010 

 It was nothing short of magical.

America_ferrera At the request of America Ferrera, a roomful of people quietly knelt to the floor to watch a video depicting the small village in Mali, Africa where America is working with Save the Children to build a school. 

“We’re talking about four walls,” she said to the crowd, as she told the story of the people she met and the things she saw on her trip to Mali. 

America stood tall on a small platform, looking over the crowd and insisting that every child has the right to an education, especially in Mali, where more than nearly 800,000 children do not attend school. (Pictured at right, America at the auction. Photo Credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children)

Her voice swelled and cracked as she described how much the people of Mali have done for themselves already, and how simple it is to give them the hand up they need: four walls, desks, teachers, sanitation facilities. 

Nearly 200 people were at the Axelle Fine Arts Gallerie in New York City on Monday night for an art auction of paintings featured in an episode of ABC’s “Ugly Betty.” The money raised by the event will go to support a school that America and Save the Children are working to build in Mali. 

America, a Save the Children Artist Ambassador for education, was joined by fellow cast members Daniel Eric Gold, Mark Indelicato, Judith Light, Ana Ortiz and Vanessa Williams. 

America_ferrera_auction Cast members stood atop a small platform and played auctioneers, joking with the crowd and egging on the bidders.  

Pictured at right, Mark Indelicato and Ana Ortiz, who play Betty’s nephew Justin and sister Hilda on the show, played to the bidders, saying, “Ten years from now, when we’re doing the second Ugly Betty movie, this will be worth a lot!” (Photo Credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children)

By the end of the night, nine paintings were sold by live and silent auction. Some cast members lingered afterward, mingling with guests, signing autographs and nibbling on the hors d’oeuvres donated by KGFare Catering & Events. 

From where I stood near the entrance, it was easy to see and feel the enthusiasm and generosity of everyone who attended. Even the coat room attendants donated their tips to Save the Children at the end of the evening. As the room emptied, I looked around at all the iconic images of America as Betty Suarez and I thought to myself, “This is what it really means to be a star.”

View the slideshow below featuring photos from America Ferrera's visit to Mali.

 

Nafy’s Story: Kangaroo Mother Care in Mali

R10-MA__-70a Dr. Nialen Kaba, Save the Children, project assistant for newborn survival and health

Bamako, Mali

April 14, 2010

I met Nafy on a visit to the Kangaroo Mother Care unit at Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako, Mali this past December. She was proud to be carrying her newborn son on her chest.

At delivery, Nafy was upset when the midwife told her that her baby was very small, weighing only 1200 grams (2.6 pounds). When her husband Adama learned of the baby’s condition, his joy quickly faded and he decided not to give the child a name. So, Nafy named him Ismael.

The day after Ismael was born, he was transferred to the pediatrics unit of the hospital. Expecting the worst, Nafy was relieved to learn that her baby had no abnormalities. However, because he was born premature, he would need to be kept warm to help him gain weight and grow.

She was told about Kangaroo Mother Care, a recently accepted practice in Mali that when coupled with a mother’s determination could help Ismael survive. 

View a photo essay featuring moms and babies in the Kangaroo Mother Care ward at Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako, Mali.

Nafy quickly adopted the Kangaroo Mother Care method in hopes of seeing her baby survive. She was forced to cope with Ismael alone because her husband Adama and his family were convinced that her efforts would be in vain. 

Their reaction only reinforced Nafy’s resolve. She practiced Kangaroo Mother Care and Ismael gained weight day by day. 

Her slogan was, “She who gives birth to a snake, attaches him to her waist.” The slogan means: Whatever the physical and mental condition of her baby, a mother is always ready to do whatever it takes to help her child survive. 

Each year, about 900,000 newborns worldwide die due to premature births. In Mali, more than 14 percent of newborns are born premature, according to the 2006 Mali Demographic Health Survey. But since the kangaroo care center opened 20 months ago, sover 550 babies have benefitted.

Learn how more than 50 percent of newborn deaths could be saved through Kangaroo Mother Care.

On the day I visited Nafy, Ismael was entering his third week of life.  He weighed 2800 grams (6 pounds) and wiggled to break free from the chest of his mother, who never stopped smiling.

Learn more about Survive to 5, Save the Children's campaign to save the lives of children under 5.