SEATTLE — Early reading skills are needed to succeed in school and also, later in life. Studies show, however, that in impoverished countries, the rate of children who can read at grade level is still quite low. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is conducted out of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.
The survey is conducted in countries around the world to compare the results of their student literacy rates. The study has been done every five years since 2001. The next study will be held this year.
The information that is provided by PIRLS is valuable to organizations like USAID which is committed to the improvement of global education, as laid out in their Education Strategy.
According to USAID, children in countries such as Mali are not only not reading at grade level: 94 percent are completely unable to read. Although students are completing grade levels; results show that in many cases, they are not learning much in the classroom.
USAID has also conducted its own Early Grade Reading Assessments in countries such as Nicaragua and Ethiopia. The Ethiopian study showed extremely low reading comprehension for children in first through third grades. Written and oral tests are used to test literacy skills.
The overall strategy of USAID to target early reading skills, specifically, has been laid out with several key goals. These include such fundamentals as making basic skills like reading the focus in classrooms and helping teachers learn techniques for teaching literacy, as well as improving study materials.
Other goals include ongoing assessments to track progress and, importantly, involving parents in the process of increasing early reading skills.
Another USAID project for targeting literacy is All Children Reading, which is “an ongoing series of grant and prize competitions that leverages science and technology to source and disseminate scalable solutions to improve literacy skills of early grade learners in developing countries.”
The All Children Reading website points out that, while there are 250 million children globally who are not learning basic literacy skills, focusing on literacy dramatically improves not only increases children’s chances in life but also the economies of the countries in which they live.
USAID hopes to improve literacy for 100 million children worldwide with its efforts.
– Katherine Hamblen