Technology has changed everything and education is not an exception. With the rising number of smartphone ownership, learning has been revolutionized with many shifting from traditional to digital learning.
Worldreader, a digital learning organization has simplified the learning process for children, giving them a chance to read online in a bid to improve their learning outcomes. The platform targets children between the age of 3-8 years mostly from marginalized areas and has so far benefitted more than 21 million readers.
The group has noted the poor reading culture of children in the region, with 50 percent of pupils in class 3 unable to read for comprehension. This is consistent with the World Bank report indicating that 57 percent of children in low and middle-income countries cannot reach a benchmark by the age of 10 years.
This has been driven by various reading cultures where a large number of learners study only for exams but not for general knowledge and leisure.
In addition, inadequate funding for early learning has negatively impacted the learning culture in Kenya. There are not enough reading support resources available to every child to build a strong foundation for a reading culture.
Parents and caregivers have at the same time forgotten their role in the reading ecosystem. This role is relegating it to a school-based activity despite the fact that home can provide strong complimentary support and mental stimulation to the early reading experience.
Through various interventions, Worldreader has transformed the reading culture in Kenya, giving 66 public primary schools in Kenya access to critical reading material. It has also empowered school leadership by exposing school leaders to the use of data to improve resiliency.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday at a Nairobi hotel, Worldreader’s Regional Director for East Africa, Joan Mwachi noted that the fundamental foundation of reading is reflected strongly in the early grades, yet proficiency is not achieved at benchmark, especially among learners in Africa.
Mwachi emphasized the need for parents to engage their children in reading to open up their minds to possibilities and become better members of society.
‘We acknowledge that reading stories with and to children is a fairly new concept in our culture, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges in a few years to come when young ones enroll into institutions for formal learning. Worldreader is working with partners to build that curiosity and interest so that reading is incorporated as a way of life,” Mwachi said.
Worldreader believes that initiatives such as community radio programs for parents on topical issues can beef up the efforts in building the culture. Communities can identify champions who will help encourage parental or caregiver engagement.
The group offers two free solutions for students available on mobile phones. For young and primary-aged children, BookSmart- an easy-to-use free reading app gives parents, caregivers, and primary students access to a library, so they can continue reading whether schools are in session or not, as part of a journey to become lifelong readers and informed decision makers.
The app is available on the Google Play Store or web browser. Those with limited data don’t have to worry as books can be saved for offline reading.