Wordworks deliver resource-based training and capacity building for individuals, schools, ECD centres, organisations and institutions to use our materials and to implement early language and literacy programmes in their communities. We encourage and support partners to integrate programmes into their existing work, monitor programme implementation, share learning and build their capacity to become trainers.
Wordworks is a South African non-profit organisation that focuses on early language and literacy development in the first eight years of children’s lives. Since 2005 we have:
- developed innovative, high quality, multilingual user-friendly teaching and learning materials to support early language and literacy learning;
- offered resourced-based training and mentorship for five early language and literacy intervention programmes;
- worked in under-resourced communities with those adults best positioned to impact on young children’s language and literacy development – parents and caregivers, family and community members, home-visitors, ECD practitioners and Grade R to Grade 3 teachers;
- and, collaborated with those who care for, work with and advocate for young children so that they recognise the importance of early language and literacy and support its development in homes, schools and community settings.
Wordworks was established in 2005 by founder-director, Dr Shelley O’Carroll, who trained as a remedial teacher and educational psychologist, specialised in assessment and support for children with reading difficulties and whose PhD explored the early literacy development of Grade One children learning to read and write in English as a second language.
We deliver resource-based training and capacity building for individuals, schools, ECD centres, organisations and institutions to use our materials and to implement early language and literacy programmes in their communities. We encourage and support partners to integrate programmes into their existing work, monitor programme implementation, share learning and build their capacity to become trainers.
It is well known that South African children are underperforming significantly in literacy. The reasons for this are complex, but a central problem is that many young children from birth to eight years do not have access to essential learning opportunities that support early language and literacy development. These children are starting school already behind and the achievement gap becomes entrenched from the earliest years. Furthermore, there is evidence that, without intervention, the deep inequalities that exist as children enter school are amplified throughout their school careers, increasing inequality and extending intergenerational cycles of poverty and lost potential.
Support for early language and literacy development can help to break this destructive cycle. Research shows that children’s learning experiences in the early years are a crucial factor in later educational success, and children who have more developed language and literacy abilities when they start school, go on to become better readers and writers.
Teachers of young children, home-visitors, health and community workers, parents and caregivers have a crucial role to play in laying important language and literacy foundations.
However, they are typically overstretched and under-resourced. They need knowledge about how young children learn, they need to be convinced to prioritise the kinds of experiences that promote language and early literacy, they need effective programmes, resourcing and, perhaps most essentially, support.
We offer multi-lingual training and resourcing on the following programmes:
- Every Word Counts Trainers are equipped to train home-visitors to strengthen the early learning component of their work with families and caregivers of babies and young children (birth to three years).
- Little Stars (pre GradeR) and Stellar (Grade R) Trainers are equipped to train teachers to strengthen their teaching of language and emergent literacy using a two-week cycle of story-based activities, and to involve parents in their children’s learning.
- Home-School Partnerships Facilitators are trained to run a series of workshops over eight weeks to empower and inspire parents and caregivers of children aged 4 to 8 years to support informal learning at home.
- Ready Steady Read Write Co-ordinatorsare trained to set up, train and manage a team of tutors who work for at least six months with pairs of Grade R and Grade 1 children who have been assessed and require additional support to learn to read and write.
Wordworks is committed to evidence-based programme development and implementation and so we:
- Develop data management systems that track a range of variables and ensure that programme data is available to a network of partners.
- Implement cycles of planning, implementation and reflection based on systematic internal monitoring and focussed external evaluation.
- Develop and share M & E tools and evaluation models with our partners and define criteria for monitoring quality and programme effectiveness.
- Gather and share evidence on the implementation and impact of Wordworksprogrammes.
- Engage with and support researchers who are interested in early language and literacy.
Wordworks has evolved from a small organisation that developed and tested research-based programmes in direct beneficiary training to an established organisation with a set of multi-lingual programmes and a commitment to building a network of partners that use our materials, implement early language and literacy programmes, and increasingly share our programmes with others in their own networks.
In 2017 we worked in partnership with 54 organisations and 308 ECD centres and schools who have trained on and are using our early language and literacy programmes in their work. This growing number of partners are members of WordNetworks, and jointly they promote the importance of, and work effectively for the improvement of children’s early language and literacy, through their association with our programmes and materials. Our network programmes are being used in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.