In the school system in Mauritania, students learn by rote and repetition. Due to big classes, they get little or no personal attention. Because of this, in our Kids and Reading Programme we make a great effort to ensure that each child gets to read to an adult or teenage helper. We have seen the light go on in children’s eyes as they, for the first time, discover how to string letters together into words, and read!
During the Covid 19 lock down, we started allowing all the children to borrow a book. S is seven years old. She has struggled with learning to recognize the letters and had not been able to sound out words. She got to borrow the first reader. When she brought it back two weeks later, she could read it! She read very slowly, but she read, she had not just memorized it. I asked her who had helped her at home and she answered that it was her older sister who also attends the program and who had helped as a volunteer for a couple of years. She had obviously taken the time and effort to help her sister and it paid off!
Another girl in our Kids and reading programme, K borrowed a book with pictures and information about India. It seemed a bit hard for her, as she is not a very confident reader, so I asked her if she had read it.
"Oh, yes!” she answered with conviction. "And my brother read it, and my sister read it and my mother too. We all liked it!" she said. And she pointed out the details in the book that she found interesting.