On Monday I visited three schools in Monrovia, along with Wendy Saul, a professor from Missouri who has been working with teachers here, and Florence (I don’t know her last name), one of the teacher-leaders. Our purpose was to assess how well the classroom teachers we visited were applying what they’d learned about teaching reading, and we saw a range.
One school to visit had been built as a residence. The rooms were small, crowded with more children than there were places to sit, and the teachers spent a lot of time having the child recite all together words printed on the chalk board or copying them into their copy-books. There might be only one book in the classroom.
Another school had a teacher who was involving his students in actively <thinking> about the story they were all reading. Here, there were more books and classes were smaller, but still, four students were sharing a book among them.
At another school, we met with a teacher who spoke enthusiastically about how his relationship with his students had changed as a result of the new strategies he’d learned at two previous Reading Liberia workshops, in part because the students were sufficiently involved in lessons that he no longer had to use a cane to motivate them to pay attention.
It was clear to both teams visiting schools that day that there is much work to be done educating teachers about how to use books effectively in their classrooms, and that a system for getting books from the We-Care library needs to be worked out, but there’s no question that the Reading Liberia project is making a difference.
Of course there are many children in Monrovia who cannot go to school because there is no money to buy the uniform. But that’s another story. And I have manuscripts to read – manuscripts that may one day become Liberian books for Liberian children to read in their classrooms…
Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.