Early learners ‘Write to Read’ programme advances culturally relevant content

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CASTRIES, St. Lucia –- Authors from St. Kitts and Nevis participated in a Write to Read program instituted locally-authored reading resources by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in conjunction with the USAID Early Learners Programme (ELP).

The OECS Write to Read campaign is an effort to ensure that early grade readers in have access to a wide range of developmental and culturally relevant books. The OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme, created a competition in 2019 to provide the unique opportunity for local authors of all ages to create children’s literature for early grade readers.

In December 2019, authors from four OECS Member States: St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada received 1st to 3rd place prizes in Children’s, Teachers and Other Adults categories. The Programme is currently publishing 43 entrants’ books in print and electronic book formats for distribution and use in OECS member-state schools in the coming school year.

The OECS/USAID ELP recognizes the tremendous shortage of culturally relevant books in schools across the OECS. Building on the work of organisations such as Hands Across the Sea, ELP will provide schools with culturally-relevant student books and teaching materials.

These types of books engage young learners and contribute to the enhancement of local culture and traditions. Research in education continues to underscore how access to engaging and culturally relevant reading resources is a significant factor in sustaining students’ motivation and interest in reading.

“The ELP could think of no better source for children’s books than the children, parents, teachers and other members of the Caribbean community,” explained OECS/USAID ELP Reading Specialist, Lisa Sargusingh-Terrence. “Therefore, we invited K – 3 students, teachers, and community members to create or co-create culturally relevant children’s books for use in the classroom.

“Students participating in the ‘Write to Read’ initiative have helped students learn writing strategies that authors employ such as idea generation, drafting, sharing, and critiquing with peers, revising and editing,” said Sargusingh-Terrence.” The printing and distribution of almost 51,000 locally/regionally authored books is a significant undertaking. These books contribute to a regional library of reading material that will support the development of a culture of reading in OECS classrooms and homes.”

Since its inception, the OECS/USAID ELP has supported the development of excellent pedagogy and instruction for early grade readers. The program’s goal is to ensure increased access to engaging and culturally relevant reading resources. In addition to the upcoming publication and printing of Write to Read texts, the ELP purchased and delivered over 12,700 culturally relevant texts to classrooms across the OECS Member States in March 2019.

Students reading Write to Read texts find engaging and culturally-relevant reading resources. ELP purchased and delivered over 12,700 culturally relevant texts to classrooms across the OECS Member States in March 2019.

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