Challenges in Early Grade Reading: A Live Blog on #7s2r

The READ Alliance launched its Seven Steps to Reading report synopsis on March 13th, earlier this year. Over the following weeks, tweet marathons have harnessed public opinion and understanding of these seven steps. Today, participants of the Early Grade Reading Innovation workshop, have each been allotted one of these steps and just a few minutes ago Nita Agarwal, Director READ Alliance, requested participants to gather in these groups, and get in to quick discussions about each step. We’re joining in now to hear from each group on their interpretation of each of the #7s2r.

15:01 – STEP I: Nurturing a stimulating environment in early years

Group one looks at the challenge in terms of a lack of interaction between parents and children, in both rural and urban areas, for different reasons. reasons for a lack of nurture in environment cannot be universalized. In rural India for example, a lack of learning materials, open spaces,literacy of parents, a lack of availability of reading materials. A family is not sufficiently equipped to encourage reading – parents are not fully convinced about education in schools either and children are engaged in sibling care or child labour. This is not only a rural problem but can also be noted in urban areas. Even in areas that are economically sound, parents have busy work schedules and a lack of interaction and engagement is prevalent.  We don’t characterise a society that works consciously toward the cognitive development of children.

15:02 - STEP II: Exposure to materials and demonstration of reading behaviours in early years

The group felt that two or three issues need a deeper study. There was a mention of female literacy. However, what is the definition of literacy? In the Indian context often the ability to sign your name qualifies someone as literate. Access to material in rural areas is low but there is a lot of environmental stimuli – including advertisements, a box of matches etc – and brand names are recognizable visual stimuli.

15:04 – STEP III: Skilled guidance and supportive environment for basic readers

Essentially in terms of resources, single teachers, and infrastructure there is a gap that doesn’t allow for an environment that encourages reading. Motivating teachers to teach reading is important. A good understanding of how a child learns – first through hearing, speaking, and then moves on to learning – is also essential and lacking. An appreciation for learning, group learning and activities is also missing. These challenges, could to an extent be attributed to teacher training.

15:06 – STEP IV: Practice and Reinforcement of skills through continued reading

The group thought it essential to consider the perspective of children who are dropping out as well. Important to look at the problem through a pedagogical aspect as well as the preparedness of teachers to deal with challenges in reading. Move on from meaning to more skill based learning. Worthwhile to address, as a starting point, both curriculum as well as teacher training.

15:08 – STEP V: Encouragement and guidance to help the child derive meaning from text

The group asked : once you can read then what? The reality of teacher-student ratio is often overwhelming for teachers, and amounts to divided and insufficient attention to students. The existing norm of learning is rote based. Teachers have one interpretation of what they read, which is what is disseminated, and therefore a diversity of meaning is missing. Reading remains in the classroom and doesn’t allow children to relate, so the practice of reading never translates in to a joy, that becomes a part of a child’s routine.

15:10 – STEP VI: Variety of stimulating reading material to develop proficiency in reading

The main problem is a lack of appropriate and density of material. In MCD schools, there is a breakdown of access – children cannot access these books due to a lack of librarians. There is no action or resources at the community level, either, as the child only spends 5 hours at school.

15:12 – STEP VII: Access to a cross generational and peer group based culture of reading

The group looked at building a culture of reading as essential to encourage reading. The issue of diversity is essential as there are children in various contexts and each one of these contexts require a rich culture of reading. Perhaps the biggest divide is the digital divide. Literacy was looked at in a broader term – multiple literacy, and the richness and possibility of that. Building a cycle of cohesion through story building activities etc. A culture of reading would have multiple benefits.

15:14 Nita Agarwal leads participants to move on from defining challenges to addressing them through solutions. Stay with us for more!




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