The African Angels Reading Project is an afterschool reading program servicing orphans and/or vulnerable children who live in rural informal townships (communities) in Chintsa East, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
We engage and train unemployed and underemployed youth and young adults living in the community to be reading mentors. The mentors meet with children in the program three times a week after school in a local community hall in half hour rotating sessions. Mentors read to their children, encouraging discussion and predictions about the text. Children then take turns to read aloud to the mentor using a levelled reading program. Since starting the pilot in August 2015, we have seen marked improvement in children’s reading levels, school marks have improved, mentor reading levels have has improved, and children are asking to be included in the program.
Our reading project is firmly embedded it in its beneficiary community: physically, as it is held in a local community hall; economically, as mentors receive a stipend for their work (for most their only paid work); and educationally as a sound reading methodology is used. Books and readers for the project are borrowed from the African Angels Independent School.
Any investment that has been made is in human capital to continually improve the skills of the reading mentors.
In 2015, 2016 and 2018, a visiting group of Texas State University PHD and Masters teaching students under the guidance of Professor Lori Assaf observed Siyafunda in action and conducted professional development sessions with mentors, improving their confidence, and their skills.
Improving mentor skills improves the children’s reading ability, contributing to achieving the program’s goal that each child reads for meaning for their age.
Learner Drop Out
The global sustainable development goals, officially known as ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ include quality education, reduced inequalities and peace and justice. Competency in literacy is key to community members being able contribute meaningfully to sustainable development in one’s own community.
A June 2016 report measuring South African Grade 4 children’s ability to read for meaning revealed that “58% of the Grade 4 sample could not read for meaning in any language and 29% were completely illiterate in any language.”