If You Print it, Will They Read It?
Aligning Standards, Curriculum, and Reading Material to Ensure Success
August 24, 2011 — 11:30 a.m.
||Stephanie Al-Otaiba, Florida State University
||Cory Heyman, Room to Read
Julia Richards, USAID/Liberia
Mary Spor, Alabama A&M University
||Catherine Powell Miles, USAID Bureau for Africa
This presentation focused on the development of reading materials. Stephanie Al-Otaila emphasized that country reading standards, addressing all program components such as activities, curricula, and materials development, should guide program implementation to the end goal of reading proficiency. Core reading programs should follow a hierarchy of instruction, moving sequentially from the easiest skills to the final outcome of reading fluency. Materials should likewise align in timing, word recognition, etc. with classroom instruction to ensure a coordinated path towards the literacy outcomes.
Julia Richards, from USAID/Liberia, noted that standards for reading are rarely available in developing countries. The alignment of the curriculum with teacher training and materials development is extremely time intensive, requiring systemization of goals and outcomes that are relative to local context in sequence and appropriateness when developing the reading program. Teachers often do not use materials, and when they do, they are often not in synch with the sequence of learning objectives and tasks. She further noted the need for materials to be attractive to both children and parents so that children are motivated and encouraged to develop an interest in reading and practice what they learn outside of the classroom.
Based on experience with a program in Ethiopia, Mary Spor reiterated the importance of attractiveness. The program found that materials needed to be both appealing and embedded in teacher training so that teachers learned how to use them effectively with students. Cory Heyman noted that Room-to-Read works with governments to identify a country’s reading standards, current gaps in children’s knowledge, and ways to fill the knowledge gaps through development of appropriate materials.
During the following discussion, participants and presenters alike remarked on all of the factors involved and how expensive and time-consuming it is to teach literacy. Room-to-Read facilitates the growth of local publishing capacity in order to ensure development of appropriate, cost-effective materials. USAID will work selectively with countries that already have reading curricula in place but need assistance to jump-start programs.
Key take away points noted by all presenters were that children will use and learn from materials, but that materials have to be appropriate, sequenced, and linked to classroom instruction. Standards should guide content identification, materials development, and teacher training. Literacy efforts are very expensive, but the alternative—children who are unable to read—is unacceptable. Implementers need to base program execution on world-wide lessons learned to ensure efficient and timely programming.