Shine Literacy seeks to create more reading opportunities for children in schools and in the greater community, working with schools directly to develop approaches that are relevant, effective and sustainable. Their main focus as an organisation is foundational phase literacy.
The Khanyisa project was piloted by Shine Literacy in 2017 at 24 schools in the Western Cape Metro Education districts. Most of these schools were on the provincial list of 100 Schools Project by the department, which were earmarked as low attaining schools which needed special intervention. We partner with Action Volunteers Africa and the Western Cape Education District
We seek to support schools to become beacons of hope by inspiring communities which they service to work together to embraced possibility, ignite potential and build an inclusive society, where no one gets left behind because they cannot read.
Khanyisa project is a new project, where we use unemployed youth reading partners to offer paired and shared reading in schools near where they live. There, they mainly read with the children in the language used in the school for instruction, can be English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. Benefits of this model are multi-pronged. Firstly, unemployed youth find gainful, meaningful work experience opportunity.
Secondly, the youth volunteers look like the children they support or indeed come from the same neighbourhood and offer support in the relevant language. Thirdly, some of the youth reading partners are parents themselves and will most probably become parents in the near future, the reading confidence and skills they get through the training of this programme should filter down to their children, thus lessening the historically low reading levels in our disadvantaged communities.
Children are provided with special dedicated time to support them in their reading practice. Children need to read daily; to practice the decoding skills they have learnt to become better at reading. Support teachers as we give them a dedicated person who can read with each child daily. Some reading partners have started to become readers themselves, using the library we set up for them at Action Volunteers Africa. A few reading partners have become confident to consider teaching as a viable profession for themselves, able to see the impact they can make. And if they do not choose teaching, some have opted for other nurturing professions e.g. Social Work, psychology degrees as a possibility to their future careers. All this was witnessed through them being in schools and seeing the value or need of these professionals in their specific settings.
In 2018, Khanyisa project was implemented at 11 schools, for a total of 42 Grade Two classes in Western Cape Metro Education Districts. Youth Reading partners are given an intensive, immersive 5-day training workshop, where they are mainly trained in Shared and Paired reading methodology. The schools which receive reading partner/s are expected to attend a one day Creating a Culture of Reading workshop run by Shine Literacy, which seeks to encourage schools to become reading hubs to support this intervention.
When the Reading partners go to schools from the beginning of Term Two till end of Term Four, they are tasked with reading to each child in their classroom every day or at the very least every second day – this is one on one paired reading. They are also expected to read a story to the whole class daily – shared reading. Each class with a reading partner is given a box full of shared reading books, level appropriate reading books for paired readers, a mat and cushions to create a warm and inviting reading environment.
We also run Family Literacy Workshops where parents and caregivers are given an opportunity to learn some basic strategies of supporting their children’s language and literacy development in the home, bridging the home school gap. These sessions are often well attended by families and caregivers.
We use qualitative as well as quantitative tools to measure the success or challenges of the programme. Reading Partners are given a notebook at the start of their programme where they are expected to journal their observations with regards to the behaviours of the children when it comes to reading – and how this change or does not, over the course of the programme. We also have a tool designed to capture how many readers each child reads per week that is filled in to ensure that children are reading an average of 30 – 40 readers before moving on to a new level.
We have received anecdotal evidence from the Reading partners that children are keen to take books home to read at home. This is giving us a chance to introduce the use of local community libraries by the children or use of the school library when it is available.
In 2017 the pilot had 24 schools and a total of 87 Grade Two classrooms; these schools had been selected because they formed part of the 100 Schools Project in the Western Cape. At the end of 2017, all schools were given an invitation to ‘reapply’ or ‘opt in’ the programme for the coming year 2018. Only 11 schools took up this opportunity and Khanyisa programme returned to them for the year 2018, still in Grade Two classes. Again, each class had a reading partner stationed in each classroom.
- Children having guaranteed reading partner with a non-threatening reading partner in their home language
- Children being exposed to a variety of texts and engaging in reading with a familiar, dedicated partner
- Reading partners having gainful meaningful work experience
- Gang violence and taxi violence at some of the areas where schools are located can be a risk
- Reading partners not able to maximize reading time in the class each day
- Availability of interesting and exciting books in vernacular language
- Funding for stipends for the Youth Reading Partners can at times become unstable
- Lack of teacher buy-in in a few classes can prove challenging and prohibiting
- It is important to be in constant communication and discussion with teachers to ensure they carry the project along with the Reading partners
- Funding for the stipends needs to be secure from the beginning
Due to funding issues for the stipends paid to the Reading partners In 2019, we shall have 25 reading partners. Down by half from the previous year. They will now move to Grade Three, so as to move with the children who have already received support, with each volunteer splitting their time between 2 classes.
The strategic plan is to move in 2020 into Grade Four classes, where we should be extracting some important data on measuring the impact of sustained reading time from Grade Two through to Grade Four. Shine is invested in this programme and will be raising funding to pay the stipends for the 25 youths, in a quest not to lose the project. If funding was not a restricting factor, reading partners would be in each class of the Foundation Phase.