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Improving Early Literacy Outcomes

Curriculum, Teaching, and Assessment

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Edited by Nic Spaull and John Comings

Learning to read and write for meaning and pleasure are arguably the two most important competences that children acquire in primary school. Yet, in 2019 more than one half of children worldwide do not reach this first rung on the literacy ladder. Improving Early Literacy Outcomes aims to address this head-on, by foregrounding the work of more than 40 researchers, most of them living in, and working on, developing countries.

Their contributions illuminate, magnify, and discover anew the importance of improving early reading, through precise alignment of curriculum, teaching, and assessment, and with a special focus on some of the most under-studied countries in the world (e.g., Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal).

Through probing analyses of research, policy, and practice, the book highlights the common experiences of high aspirations repeatedly confronting harsh realities. Sixteen interconnected chapters cast an ever-vigilant and deflationary eye on the temptation to take an unrealistic approach to early literacy, and also caution against lumping all languages, contexts, and policy-challenges into a single heap.

This book provides an indispensable guide to policymakers, practitioners, educators, and academics working towards the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Improving the teaching, learning, and assessment of early grade literacy is key not only to expanding the quality, access, and equity of education, but also to unlocking all the other SDGs, and ultimately to driving development.

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Peter Afflerbach

Abstract

Peter Afflerbach sets out a four-part process: (1) define literacy; (2) identify the skills and knowledge needed to acquire literacy; (3) develop a curriculum and instruction that supports students acquiring those skills and knowledge; and (4) design an assessment to measure how well the curriculum and instruction build the skills and knowledge students need. In this chapter, he suggests three factors that are critical to learning the skills and knowledge of literacy: (1) motivation, (2) self-efficacy, and (3) metacognition. He also suggests that measures of these three factors should be added to formative and summative assessments.

Assessing Early Literacy Outcomes in Burkina Faso and Senegal

Using DHS and PASEC to Combine Access and Quality

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Nic Spaull and Adaiah Lilenstein

Abstract

Nic Spaull and Adaiah Lilenstein look at educational statistics in Burkina Faso and Senegal and note that both countries have low school completion rates in Grades 2 and 5, as well as low reading scores at these two grade levels. They then combine the measures of grade completion and reading scores to calculate the percentage of children in the Grade 2 age cohort (both those in school and those who have dropped out) who have enough grade-level reading skills. This comprehensive approach provides a more accurate measure of success. They also look at the demographic characteristics of sex and family wealth and how they predict the more comprehensive measure that combines Grade 2 completion and reading skill acquisition.

Challenges Associated with Reading Acquisition in Sub-Saharan Africa

Promotion of Literacy in Multilingual Contexts

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Heikki Lyytinen, Emma Ojanen, Jacqueline Jere-Folotiya, Stella Damaris Ngorosho, Francis Sampa, Pamela February, Flora Malasi, Jonathan Munachaka, Christopher Yalukanda, Kenneth Pugh and Robert Serpell

Abstract

Heikki Lyytinen and his co-authors note the problems of poorly trained teachers and large class sizes in Africa. Drawing on experience in Zambia, they present a case study of a digital game that can help overcome these problems and lead to more effective literacy instruction, particularly for students facing barriers to learning how to read.

Early Literacy Instruction in India

Redefining the Challenge

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Shobha Sinha

Abstract

Shoba Sinha employs an emergent-literacy perspective to describe how children who live in low-literacy homes manage literacy in school, what body of knowledge a teacher must have to teach children who come from low-literacy homes, and the impact on learning of the context of schools where teaching takes place. In addition, she suggests alternative ways of conceptualizing early literacy programmes based on interventions in India and examines the challenges involved in implementing programs of improved literacy instruction.

The Early Reading Curriculum

International Policy and Practice

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Claire McLachlan

Abstract

Claire McLachlan makes a case for a comprehensive approach to early-grade reading instruction that is based on research into how children acquire and improve reading skills and how children are motivated to use reading for pleasure, learning, and interaction within their culture and with the wider world culture. She also makes a case for adapting the practices developed in the cultures of OECD countries to the cultures in African countries to ensure the effectiveness of these imported teaching and learning programmes.

Entering into the Written Culture to Overcome Inequalities

Teaching Literacy to Children from Vulnerable Communities

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Alejandra Medina

Abstract

Alejandra Medina describes a project that was conducted with students in primary schools that serve vulnerable groups in San Antonio, Chile. This four-year project combined cultural learning with the teaching of language and literacy. The project design included increasing daily opportunities for reading complex texts, contextualizing the texts, and writing about the texts. This approach led to a statistically significant impact on student reading comprehension and text production.

Getting It Right from the Start

Early Reading Instruction in African Languages

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Elizabeth J. Pretorius

Abstract

Elizabeth J. Pretorius describes the differences between some African languages and the European languages that are the subject of most reading research. She presents the research on learning to read in African languages and highlights how this research could inform the teaching of reading in countries that have non-European languages of instruction.

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Amapola Alama

Abstract

Amapola Alama describes a cooperative project between UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education (IBE) and the governments of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal, to improve literacy learning outcomes in the first three years of primary education. Though the project goal was the same for all three countries, the ways in which that goal would be achieved was tailored to each country. This meant considering each country’s unique historical, socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural contexts. The description presents the way in which the IBE works with countries, the conceptual framework that guided this project’s implementation, and the preliminary results of this collaboration.

Introduction

Learning to Read and Write for Meaning and Pleasure

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Nic Spaull

Abstract

Nic Spaull provides the conceptual and empirical framing for the book, arguing that reading and writing in developing countries remain under-researched and under-theorized. By reviewing the “5 T’s of literacy” (Teaching, Texts, Tests, Training, and Tongue), he shows how the current book contributes to our understanding of how literacy unfolds in developing countries. The chapter also provides an overview of reading outcomes in developing countries, and in Francophone West Africa specifically.