All parents worry that today’s children can hardly be book readers closer to yesterday’s generation.
Why? It is the age of social media and the lowly rated Universal Primary Education (UPE). This is coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic disruption of education and training pandemic.
It is possible to foster more avid readers for pleasure, who are far ahead of the yester years generation, thanks to breakthrough initiatives such as Read Aloud -before kids- model that is globally run under the umbrella. We Love Reading (WLR).
It was developed in 2006 by a Fulbright scholar, Dr Rana Dajani, an Arab-American from Jordan in her quest to improve the reading culture among people of developing countries.
To understand the depth or shallowness of reading culture among people in developing countries, picture this: On average, a child in a developing country reads for pleasure for only six minutes or one page in a year compared to 12,000 minutes or 11 books of their Western counterpart.
Check these ugly statistics produced from the Arab Thought Foundation in 2011 by asking yourself of how many books you read for pleasure in a year.
The WLR arrangement easily helps to set a child to read four books in a month! Ask any parent from Mirembe A Village, Kitanda Sub-county in Bukomansimbi District where this programme is running.
Dr Dajani, a professor in Molecular Biology in Hashemite University in Jordan, rightly said reading aloud to the children makes them love reading.
“Read to them nice tales in their language, and give them books. They can then get time to read those books,” she told me when we met eight years ago on the Malaysia-Singapore causeway bridge.
She started the programme with her family, then spread to her neighbourhood and received a warm welcome. Within two years, she had covered Jordan with more than 4,000 libraries. Fourteen years now, WLR is run in more than 40 countries across all continents!
It is better to read before children in an environment away from a classroom setting, and on a weekend.
Out of Covid-19 days, a village could have a group of about 30 children who would go with a set of books at the end of the session, to be exchanged on the next weekend.
Believe me, a tickled child would complete the book within a day or two! All they need is to have a trained tale teller volunteer.
In these Covid-19 days, the learners can be reduced to only one or two families.
To read aloud well, the reader must use voice, gesture movement and facial expressions. To unlock these capacities, the reader can experiment with drama and storytelling techniques.
In Uganda, some well-meaning organisation, Utopia Foundation, is teaming up with us to have this arrangement cover the country, which will ultimately contribute to the transformation of society. We can gladly guide volunteers on the simple ABCs of reading aloud before the children.
Without applying smart strategies, the Covid-19 cloud might envelope our creativity and leave us damn dumb.
Abdallah Matovu Mutesasira,