Education quality in rural Zambia has been dismal, especially in regards to literacy. A recent assessment by USAID-funded Let’s Read Zambia shows that 55% of Grade 1-3 students performed at minimum or below minimum levels of proficiency in literacy. Delays in the age and grade at which students attain functional literacy skills make future primary years that much more challenging.
Read Smart is a literacy intervention for early grade learning based on the use of phonetic charts, illustrating the mouth positions associated with each sound. The majority of Zambian children are taught how to read by memorization but Read Smart focuses on using visual aids to teach children how letters sound. It is an explicit phonics program where sound-spelling relationships are directly taught and applied.
The project consists of a preparation period followed by 4 phases of 10 weeks each. In phase 1, students complete activities explicitly connecting mouth charts and letter sounds to accurately pronounce letter sounds. During phase 2, letters are connected to the sounds they make and students learn to read basic words. In phase 3, students practice writing and reading lower case letters with a focus on reading simple sentences. Last, in the final phase, students read basic stories with simple words.
We scaled Read Smart from 2 schools in 2021 to 8 schools and ~1,000 students in 2022. The program results indicate that the program is successful at improving literacy outcomes across a diverse audience including both boys and girls, very low-income levels, and for students entering primary school with high academic needs. In the future we will work within Eastern Province to expand to 3,000 students in early childhood centers, community schools, and government schools over the next year. Finally, we want to explore adapting to 1-2 other Zambian languages within the next three years.
Read Smart has improved literacy outcomes in very rural and remote villages in Zambia. We believe this solution can be adapted to work in other places. Please contact email@example.com to learn more.