World Vision International
article • Tuesday, April 23rd 2019

It takes a village to teach children to read

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Community reading club volunteer, Jenara Mumbulu, listens to and helps Lightwell, 10, with his reading at a World Vision's reading camp in Zambia. (Photo credit: Laura Reinhardt / World Vision).

By Kari Costanza, World Vision US

An outbreak of reading increases education

Lightwell, 10, is not yet sponsored, but he still gets to attend World Vision’s Unlock Literacy reading club, held on weekends. Lightwell goes everywhere with a book in his hand.

“My favorite thing is reading,” he says. “I like it even more than football (soccer).”

Lightwell, 10, is learning to read at a World Vision reading club in Zambia

Lightwell reads a book to his friends at the reading club. This story is about the beginning of the world. (Photo credit: Laura Reinhardt / World Vision)
His uncle, Thomas Mambo, 45, is a World Vision-trained community volunteer. Thomas says that in Moyo, “there has been an outbreak of reading. Children read everything they get their hands on.”

That’s true of Lightwell. As dozens of his friends kick around a soccer ball made of plastic bags, Lightwell is immersed in a book, oblivious to the happy chaos around him.

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Reading club participation starts in the first grade. “The first grade is the foundation of everything,” says Shepherd Chilombe, 48, who runs the programme. “You can’t move forward if you don’t know how to read.”

A World Vision education staff member in Zambia

Shepherd Chilombe, 48, has been with World Vision for two years. He runs World Vision's Unlock Literacy programme in Moyo AP. (Photo credit: Laura Reinhardt / World Vision).

Shepherd is a local expert who has trained members of Zambia’s Ministry of Education on how to educate community members — farmers, shop owners, and even teachers — in a new way of teaching. He’s from Moyo himself. “My father was a cook at the Jembo Mission Hospital. He used the little resources he was getting to send me to school.”

Community volunteers unlock children’s literacy skills

In Moyo, students gather under trees and open fields. Community volunteers facilitate reading club sessions. Lessons are interspersed with games. Posters blow in the soft breeze, hanging from tree limbs with pictures that illustrate words in Tonga, the local language. The children sing their vowels: A, E, I, O, U, becomes A, E, I, O, moo when a cow passes by, drowning out the final vowel.

Children play games to make reading fun at a World Vision reading club in Zambia

Children play games at World Vision's Reading Camp in Moyo, Zambia. (Photo credit: Laura Reinhardt / World Vision)

Jenara Mumbulu, 45, is a community volunteer trained to teach at reading clubs. Jenara is a farmer during the week. On Sundays, however, she teaches children to read. It’s all part of Unlock Literacy, which focuses on children ages 7-10, making sure they get the foundational reading skills they need at an early age.

A community volunteer hands out books at a World Vision reading club in Zambia

Jenara hands out books to children at the reading club in Moyo AP. (Photo credit: Laura Reinhardt / World Vision)
“Any child can go to the reading [club] — both sponsored and non-sponsored,” says Shepherd.

Unlock Literacy is starting small and expanding. “We’ve started with 10 clubs. There will be five clubs in Moyo and five clubs in Hamaundu,” he says. “They will run all year long, not just throughout the school year. As we progress in the next year, there will be more. We will serve about 1,250 children in Hamaundu and 1,250 in Moyo. About 2,500.”

Parents encourage literacy skills at home, even when they can’t read themselves

Lightwell’s mother, Lillian, 27, says her children love World Vision’s reading club. She’ll do anything to support her children, yet says she faces one challenge: “[My children] want me to approve their homework. But I don’t know how to read.” Thankfully, this will soon change.

Lightwell and his mother love to read together.

Lightwell and his mother, Lillian, 27, pose outside their home. Lillian only went through grade 6. (Photo credit: Laura Reinhardt / World Vision)

World Vision is starting a reading program for adults in Moyo, and Lillian will be first in line. “My greatest joy would be to read to the congregation,” she says. And she’ll be able to study with her son.

Lightwell, 10, participates at a World Vision reading club in Zambia

Lightwell loves World Vision's Reading Camp. “At camp, there is someone who makes sure we know how to read," he says. (Photo credit: Laura Reinhardt / World Vision)

Lightwell wants his mother to read like he can. He hopes to become a teacher one day. “I will teach the children the way I am learning at reading club,” he says.

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