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Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 15th

posted Apr 15, 2018, 5:48 PM by Courtney Richardson
2018 Guided Reading Goes Global

“Ma, can I have a lesson, can I have a lesson?” Those are words Tina Gibbs, missionary with GECHAAN ministries in Gembu, Nigeria hears frequently from the children coming to the gate at her compound. Gembu is a very remote town on the Mambilla Plateau in southeastern Nigeria. There is no running water or electricity. Most buildings are made of mud bricks and many people make their living by farming the dry, harsh land. 
Originally, Tina began using Literacy Footprints, the guided reading support kit developed by Jan Richardson and Michele Dufresne, to teach young adults in a technical training program run by GECHAAN. Tina knew there was a great deal of illiteracy in the community since the government has no formal curriculum. There are no textbooks or resource materials and most instructors in the remote areas do not have a degree in education. Still, she was shocked to learn that out of the 65 applicants screened for admission to the training program, not even 15 could read above a first-grade level. Tina needed more than the random worksheets she downloaded off the Internet to meet the needs of these students. When friends in the U.S. suggested Literacy Footprints, Tina knew she had found the right tool. Pioneer Valley Books generously donated a Literacy Footprints Kit for Tina to use. With the guidance of a friend, Tina spent a week observing and learning how to do assessments, use the lesson cards, and teach lessons. By the end of the week she could already see reluctant, self-conscious readers becoming excited, confident, risk takers who couldn’t wait for their next lesson.
A year later, Tina has expanded her reach into the community. She now teaches nine lessons a day, five days a week to community members ages 5- 65. Tina calls the fact that most of the lesson planning is done for her, "...a gift." In addition, Tina uses Literacy Footprints material to extend student learning. The nonfiction books become a platform for science and social studies lessons. Students learn about both their world and the world beyond the village. After reading about plants, for instance, the students can label the parts of the plants growing around them. The landform book helps students identify features of the desert, mountains, and the plateau in their country. Students discover places they never knew existed like Switzerland, comparing and contrasting those places to their homeland. Resources such as the word study cards and magnetic letters have proven to be effective tools for teaching multiple foundational skills including rhyming and oral language.
Literacy Footprints has opened the door to literacy for many in Gembu, but perhaps even greater, is the impact it has had on the self-esteem of the students. Prime examples of this are the cleaning ladies that work on the compound. At 65 years old, Nicoleen never dreamed she would become a reader, much less a teacher! She and four other women are teaching their grandchildren to read. Tina notes that now the women come to work in dresses, with their hair done, a touch of makeup applied, and standing tall. If you ask the women, they will tell you that their greatest joy is to finally be able to read their Bibles! Guided reading is truly enriching the lives of readers young and old around the globe.

Written by: Bonnie Porter