Learning to Read in Liberia

Fantastic Phonics in Liberia

Download the final USAID research report

In 2007, Fantastic Phonics began to provide the program free of charge to charities working in poorer communities around the world.

In 2008, USAID (http://www.usaid.gov) chose Fantastic Phonics to use in a reading intervention program in Liberia, on the West Coast of Africa, where 85% of the population is considered to be below the international poverty line. Initially there were 178 schools in the program trial.

The program, known as EGRA (Early Grade Reading Assessment), was designed to provide an evidence–based assessment to find the best methods of early-reading instruction. The research ran from 2008 – 2010 (3 years), and the outcome of the program was so successful that it has been extended to an additional 2300 schools  (75,000 copies have been printed).

 

 

A classroom using Fantastic Phonics – it you teach literacy, it is compelling.
At 17:46 minutes, you can see the children with Fantastic Phonics

 

 

 

 

 

A video of the Program in Action in Liberia
At 4:25 minutes, you can see the children with Fantastic Phonics

 

 

Program Outcomes

After just one-and-a-half years of intervention,

  • students in the "full treatment" group outperformed their peers dramatically, nearly tripling the gains made by the control group in oral reading fluency and reading comprehension.
  • the reading fluency of students in the full treatment group improved 4.5 times faster than the control group  – and comprehension improved 5 times faster.

At the final assessment, the children who received the full program performed nearly two and a half times better (250%) compared to their peers who did not. When the Program impacts are measured in expressed in terms of "grade effects" (jumps in ability) the Program generated the equivalent of …

  • 1.9 school years jump in phonemic awareness,
  • 1.8 school years jump in familiar word reading,
  • 8.0 years jump in unfamiliar word fluency,
  • 1.9 years jump in oral reading fluency,
  • 2.0 years jump in reading comprehension, and
  • 1.8 years jump in listening comprehension.

We're proud to have contributed to the improvement of children's lives. English is the "language of the internet" and having knowledge English gives a child access to the internet, and brings wide-ranging benefits to the children, their parents and the whole community.

Program Extensions - Preserving Indigenous Language

It is estimated that 43% of the world's 6000 languages are under threat. Fantastic Phonics has started a project to present the stories in both English AND the community's dialect/spelling. For example, Liberia has 30 indigenous languages, Australia has 300, India has 1000.

The Program uses the internet to capture translations of the program by community members who can translate the simple language of Fantastic Phonics into the local dialect/spelling. The system is automated and provides a method for local communities to pass on their literacy to their children. It is a free service.

For more information, contact jennifertcooper [at] hotmail.com

 

Recent Posts

Credits

Early Grade Reading Assessment

(EGRA) Plus: Liberia

Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia

EdData II Task Number 6

Contract Number EHC-E-06-04-00004-00

Strategic Objective 3

July 2009

This publication was produced for review by the United States Agency for International Development. It was prepared by the Liberian Ministry of Education, Liberian Education Trust, and RTI International.

  Prepared for  USAID/Liberia and Ministry of Education, Republic of Liberia with partial funding from the Presidential Initiative for Expanding  Education

Prepared by
RTI International
3040 Cornwallis Road
Post Office Box 12194
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2194

Reading program prepared in Collaboration with
Early Reading.com “Fantastic Phonics”.

RTI International is a trade name of Research Triangle Institute.

This publication is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID.) The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of RTI International and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Acknowledgments

In September 2008, the Liberian Ministry of Education (MOE) organized a week-long workshop during which a draft Scope and Sequence for teaching reading in English for Liberia was started and has now been developed. The MOE representatives and other participants provided the authors with sufficient written material to develop a teacher manual that is custom-made for Liberia. The workshop was funded by the World Bank and facilitated by RTI International and the Liberian Education Trust. The finalization of this teacher manual, the training in the use of the manual, and the overall implementation of the EGRA Plus: Liberia project is made possible by USAID/Liberia, the Presidential Initiative for Expanding Education, and the generous support of the American people.

The EGRA Plus: Liberia Project was requested by the Ministry of Education, and funded by the World Bank between June and September 2008. As of October 2008 and until October 2010, the Project will be funded by USAID/Liberia with partial funding from the Presidential Initiative for Expanding Education.

Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in Liberia The ability to read and understand a text is the most fundamental skill a child learns. Without literacy there is little chance a child will escape the inter-generational cycle of poverty. Yet, in many countries, students enrolled for as many as four years, are unable to read and understand even simple texts. Psychometric evidence indicates that learning to read both early and at a sufficient rate are essential for learning to read well. Acquiring literacy becomes more difficult as students grow older; children who do not learn to read in the first few grades are more likely to repeat and eventually drop out, or will fall behind others for the rest of their lives, and countries where the population cannot read well will tend to lag behind the more educated countries.

What is EGRA?

Concerned with the state of reading in early grades in developing nations, international agencies decided to fund an early-grade reading assessment (EGRA). Most national and international assessments are paper-and-pencil tests used in grades four and above; they essentially assume students have already master the basics of reading. For the few low-income countries participating in international tests, the median child performs at about the 3rd or 4th percentile of a developed country distribution. From these results it is often difficult to tell whether the most basic skills are absent or present to enable the student to understand the test, or whether the children cannot perform the tasks in the test. EGRA was designed to assess the foundation skills for literacy acquisition in grades 1 through 4 orally, including pre-reading skills such as listening comprehension.

The utility of EGRA (and its ramifications) lies in two areas. First, it highlights reading problems, drawing policy makers’ attention to the issue, and helps teachers track performance. Second, early grade reading is a “leading indicator” for the functioning of a school or school system. If reading is not being taught well in a school or a district, it is a safe bet that other things are not being taught well. Moreover, lack of reading instruction and skill is relatively easy to detect, as opposed to a lack of appropriate instruction and skill in, say, social studies.

EGRA in Liberia

While EGRA started out as a measurement tool, many countries have shown an interest in using it as a springboard to improving reading and teacher training around reading. EGRA Plus: Liberia is a good case. The tool itself will be used to lay a baseline on reading. But the main emphasis of EGRA Plus: Liberia will be to improve student reading skills by implementing evidence-based reading instruction. The tasks and activities that would provide information on causes of poor reading levels similar to the opportunity-to-learn literature will be included. Systematic training, support, and supervision will be provided to teachers, along with toolkits and plenty of reading materials for the students. The project will also include training and collaboration with Ministry of Education staff in areas of early grade assessment, development of skills in early grade reading improvement, and the use of data to drive teaching improvement. The project will work on a pilot basis using a thorough evaluation approach.

EGRA Plus: Liberia began in October 2008 and will end in October 2010. It is implemented by RTI International and Liberian Education Trust, with leadership from the Liberian Ministry of Education. EGRA Plus: Liberia has been funded by the World Bank and USAID/Liberia and the Presidential Initiative for Expanding Education. For further information, contact us at egraplusliberia@gmail.com.

How to Use the EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual and Other Resources

Teachers in Grades 2 and 3 in participating schools of EGRA Plus: Liberia project will use the following four main sources for teaching reading.

A.        EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual – Volume 1 + 2

The EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual – Volume 2 presented here consists of two main parts: (1) overview of Scope and Sequence for teaching reading for a year, and (2) weekly lesson plans with detailed daily sequences and instructions on what to teach that day and how to draw on other resources that have been provided to teachers (e.g., decodable books and supplementary materials).

Finally, the EGRA Plus: Liberia Teacher Manual will include the following teacher resources: pocket charts, letter cards, and flash cards.

B.        Decodable books

The EGRA Plus: Liberia project will provide every child in Grades 2 and 3 in participating schools with a number of decodable books. The books are compiled into three compilations and each compilation provides the weekly schedule for the use of these books. This schedule can be also found in this manual (see “Scope and Sequence”).

C.        Library books

The EGRA Plus: Liberia project will provide Grades 2 and 3 with a sufficient number of books to build small libraries. These books are to be used by students in Grades 2 and 3 for reading at home or during school hours for “independent” reading. Teachers will be provided with ‘reading-at-home’ log of books as well as library logs to keep track of the books’ use.

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