August 8, 2020

Read Alouds’ for early grade students in the OECS while schools are closed!

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By Sisera Simon Head, Education Development Management Unit, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, OECS

OECS/USAID Early Learners Program (ELP) Media Release

Thursday, April 16, 2020 — As parents and caretakers across the OECS grapple with home schooling and managing young students while at home, the OECS Member States have been working to ensure that instructive reading sessions are made accessible to all students from Kindergarten to Grade 3. Principals and teachers across the OECS have been hosting ‘Read Alouds’ on multiple platforms to support and engage students while at home. When a teacher, parent or caretaker reads a book aloud to students/children and engages the student in language development utilizing the book and its theme – this is called a ‘Read Aloud’.

‘Read Alouds’ offer instructive reading sessions that are a critical component in the ongoing reading development of children in Kindergarten to Grade 3. Not only do ‘Read Alouds’ and consistent reading build strong language skills, they engender a love of reading, a love of learning, critical thinking, a strong vocabulary, and interest in a variety of topics.

From homes across the OECS, teachers have been recording ‘Read Alouds’ and sharing them online, as media platforms become free and more readily available during this period of coronavirus-related movement restrictions. These platforms include: television, radio, Facebook, private sector online platforms and through direct Whatsapp. The OECS/USAID ELP teams within the OECS Ministries of Education are seeking to utilize more traditional media platforms to ensure that young students who do not have access to online mediums can still be effectively engaged. Television stations and radio stations are partnering with the Ministries of Education to offer airtime for “Read Alouds’ at regular intervals throughout the week.

Vide Bouteille Primary School in Saint Lucia is one prime example of a principal supporting early grade students with a daily ‘Storytime’ – including some locally authored and culturally relevant books for young students. The Vide Bouteille Primary School Storytime is posted every weekday on the Vide Bouteille Facebook page and is shared in the private Facebook group for ELP parents and educators to share and use. According to the principal Mrs. Lyrill Arthur Stanislaus,

“As a principal, I truly believe in students gaining a love of reading. I usually read to my students at school and this was something I wanted to continue even though they are home. So, I started a daily reading session to keep students motivated and to let them know that I am thinking about them. Stories allow students to go on different adventures and what better way since they cannot leave home than to travel through books”.

To date Vide Bouteille Primary has posted 18 videos on their Facebook page of over 1000 followers and the videos combined have received a total of 638 likes, 188 comments and 241 shares. The video has further been shared to a Private ELP parents Facebook group of 327 and ELP private educators Facebook group of 286 members.

The OECS/USAID ELP is very encouraged by this initiative and looks forward to the rollout of the many other ‘Read Aloud’ initiatives across the OECS both online and offline during this period of school closures.

The OECS/USAID ELP offers the following tips to parents who would like to conduct their own ‘Read Alouds’:

  • Choose a book that the child is interested in;
  • Encourage the child to get involved in the story by describing pictures and making predictions;
  • Ask questions that require more of a response than yes or no or nodding. (e.g. “What do you predict will happen next?”);
  • Be creative and have fun. Try reading in character, acting out parts of the book, or other techniques to engage the child in the story; and
  • Be patient and encouraging. 

About OECS/USAID ELP: 

OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme is a Programme within the Education Development Management Unit of the OECS Commission and was established in March 2015 to improve the reading skills of children in the early primary grades with the goal of providing a foundation for improved learning outcomes and enhanced opportunities for students in the six (6) independent Member States of the OECS (Antigua and Barbuda, The Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

To date the ELP has achieved a number of tangible outputs with over 17,000 learners reached at the Primary level, over 1500 Grades K to 3 teachers supported through job embedded professional development, 1426 lessons observed and 1031 coaching sessions with teachers have been completed by ELP Coordinators. Further, 60 schools across the Member States have received development grants to support reading enhancement projects and 173,114 teaching and learning materials have been provided to 750 classrooms across the OECS. The OECS/USAID ELP will run through to September 2020 continuing to develop and implement impactful initiatives that advance early grade reading throughout the OECS.

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