Do you remember learning how to read? Depending on your age, you may have had fun with Dick and Jane or molded your mouth around consonant blends with Hooked on Phonics. But in Guatemala, neither storybooks nor syllables are standard fare. Instead, educators teach reading as an exercise in rote memorization of individual words. Words remain just arrangements of lines and curves, so students have a hard time interpreting new words on their own, and entire sentences, paragraphs, and stories never coalesce into meaning.
Can you imagine? Ugh, BORING. As a result, scores of kids tire of school, and their parents, seeing that their children are not really learning to read, pull their kids out of school to work in the field and supplement the family’s income. Every year, 500,000 primary school children in Guatemala drop out.
But all is not lost. A new wave of educators is bringing imagination, creativity, and FUN back to reading! We recently heard from Nicolasa, one of our Culture of Reading Program (CORP) teachers in Patzicía, who is totally revamping the way she teaches letters to her first graders, so that by the end of the school year, they will be able to read on their own. When she introduced her students to the letter “U,” she read them a story emphasizing words with “U” and then took them outside to play jump rope. As each student pulled her feet up to clear the “U” of the jump rope, she shouted out a different word beginning with the letter “U.”
uva – uno – usted!
By the end of class Nicolasa’s students were grinning and giggling and she told us: “This methodology is awesome. I can really tell it’s helping my students and they’re advancing so quickly.”
The CORP methodology, based on the Concentrated Language Encounter (CLE) pedagogy used throughout the developing world, encourages teachers to explore a new book with their children each week. Teachers engage their students with the book in a different way each day to build interest and comprehension. Exercises range from acting out the story in first and second grades to identifying themes, charting plot development, and critically analyzing texts in fifth and sixth grades.
It’s thanks to U (See what I did there?) that the CORP methodology is now sweeping across schools in Guatemala and turning students into lifelong lovers of reading. With your help, kids in CORP classrooms score 58% better in reading comprehension and writing than their peers at non-CORP schools, and failure rates in CORP classrooms consistently drop by a third. And you know what else? Over 500 teachers have been trained in CORP and nearly 14,000 Guatemalan children have benefitted. Maybe one day in Guatemala, thanks to you and people like you, students will look back on CORP with the same nostalgia that we remember Dick and Jane or Hooked on Phonics.