e-Tale PODCAST Afterschool Volunteer Teacher/head on Question 3 (Namibia)
a. How are children who struggle with reading supported in schools or in some other way?
I found, in my experience in Namibia in public schools, that children who struggle with reading are actually not supported and there doesn’t seem to be any other extra support for them. They have difficulty seeing the words, putting the words together, sounding out the words. In English, many words are not as they appear and the teachers; their method of teaching reading seems to be giving children lists of words to memorise. So these words are out of context. The teachers’ themselves are not reading stories to children or doing literature based activities. So the children are not connecting reading with pictures, or fantasy, or with a story that animates them or that motivates them to learn to read more. So unfortunately reading becomes another chore that they have to do or something that they have to memorise. They disconnect between a love of learning and a desire to read words for enjoyment or pleasure, and it rather becomes a chore that they have to do in order to pass a class or in order to succeed in school.
b. How are teachers supported in their teaching of reading?
You don’t want to put any blame on the teacher.You don’t want want to say it’s the teacher’s fault if the child cannot read, but unfortunately teachers in schools, they do not have any story books. In the schools that I have visited, I have not seen a single story book in a teacher’s classroom. So how can you teach reading or get children to love reading if you don’t read stories to them? If you don’t have beautiful illustrated literature that you can read to them and motivate you to teach them. So unfortunately, teachers are not supported in their teaching of reading. Children don’t have readers or things that they can read. Teachers who want to teach children to read, especially on a lower level, will hand children a page of small words, like cat, hat mat. This is actually not even actually phonics; it is not even a reading lesson. Or a teacher makes a photocopy of a page that has ten sentences on it and children are expected to memorise these sentences and these words and then read them back to the teacher. And that is the reading. So there is really little to No support for the teaching of reading in the classroom. And there don’t seem to be any materials or things for even literature based activities. So this is also very, very disappointing and very difficult.
c) What can be done to further support literacy teaching and learning? (by and for learners, by and for teachers, by and for parents; etc.)
What I do, at the Nordkamp Centre, at the afterschool centre, is that I try to get my hands on as many children’s story books as possible; beautiful literature for children. And every single day I sit and read children a story. They ask: “What’s the story for today? What story are you going to read?” So I will take a very simple story, for example, ‘The hungry caterpillar’ and I will read them the story out loud. These are little children in grade 1. And then we will do a fun little activity or we will retell the story. We will act it out and then I let that book become available for those children. So at the end of class they say: “Teacher Teacher, can I read the book? Can I look at the pictures. So when the other children are running out to play, I will have children who sit and turn the pages of the book and retell the story together. They are so captivated and so animated. Its such a treat; It’s like letting them have an extra piece of cake at the birthday. So they cannot wait for this. Simply by reading these stories out loud to them, doing fun literature activities and allowing them to have access to this book, you are opening up a whole world of literature and developing a love of reading in them. The next day, they can’t wait for the next one. I absolutely believe that if these things were available to teachers in school and if teachers have a chance to see how access to good literature promotes a desire for reading. They could actually turn around or start making a difference in the lives of these children; Let them become little readers who love reading.
d) What do you regards as the most important factors to support young children’s reading success?
I believe that, first of all an adult or a role model who is modeling reading; little children seeing adults reading and reading for pleasure and enjoyment; that’s the first thing that sparks a child’s interest; the first thing they see an adult reading, the say : “Oo, what are you doing?” So modeling reading as something for pleasure and joy is a first support.
Second is having things that they can read (attractive things) if you get a child to want to read and you hand them the Namibian newspaper, that’s probably not going to get them, but they see adults reading and they get access to things that they can read at home or in school. This will become something they will want to do. They will want to mimic what the grownups are doing; they will want to read. They will ask: “What is this word? They will want to read it to themselves. And so I think that supporting their reading success comes from encouragement, it comes from modeling, support, having the material and putting this all together into a desirable package which you are then presenting to the child as something you are doing, she is doing it, so I’m sure you will want to do it too. This is how it comes with anything.
How does a young musician develop a desire for music? Well their mother sings in the choir, their father is taking guitar lessons, the family is singing at night. They are exposed to this as part of their lifestyle, as part of their culture. So developing a reading culture through school, through the family, through their community, slowly, slowly, this will develop into a part of the child’s life where reading will come as natural for the child as eating or playing or singing or anything else that they do.