“One of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their offspring and to their society—is to read to children.” These words of eminent astronomer Carl Sagan summed up the mood at a reading seminar for volunteers and leaders at Rays of Hope’s Homework Club.
Marian Bailey and Lucille Kleb of the organisation Raising Readers spent a total of four mornings at Ikhaya Lomusa, training Homework Club staff on how best to teach young people to read.
“Reading is a two-way process,” explained Marian. “Firstly, you have to read to them to instil a love of words, images and stories. Then comes the second part – teaching them to read for themselves. This should not be a mechanical exercise done out of duty or after being told to do so; instead, the young person must love to read, to enjoy the entire process.”
The Homework Club currently assists Alex schoolchildren with after-school learning, predominantly by assisting them with their homework. “Right now we have about sixty kids in the programme, starting at grade R and going up to high school,” explains Social Worker Jennie Morley. “While reading is not the only thing we do, it is obviously very important and reading with kids is a skill that should be learned in order to maximise the benefit. It’s not just a case of sitting down and reading. This is why this seminar is so important.”
The relationship between Raising Readers and Rays of Hope started at the Kingsmead Book Fair, when the work being done by the Homework Club came to the attention of members of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association. “Every third Saturday of the month our children go to Kingsmead to be read to by students from the school, which benefits everyone. The kids love it and the Kingsmead girls learn useful skills by working with young children. Then the PTA decided to sponsor this workshop with Raising Readers as a natural progression in our relationship with the school,” says Jennie.
Raising Readers teaches a range of skills that enable teachers and helpers to maximise the time spent reading with young children. The group of staff and volunteers at the seminar learned a range of new techniques such as the Word Wall, which improves vocabulary. “Reading to and with children gives them access to ever-increasingly complex books and improves language use and comprehension,” said Marian. “We teach the so-called 4-L’s in our seminar: reading with children is about Love, Language, Listening and Letters.”
There is no doubt that the young children of Rays of Hope’s Homework Club will have access to the very best reading instruction in the coming weeks and months. This may, possibly, positively affect the rest of their lives as they learn that reading is a gift to be treasured and not just another chore.