Children in rural Liberia aren’t learning to read. Often this is because there's simply nothing to read in their schools or at home. The Our Words Library (OWL) Project is helping to solve that problem, and a whole lot more.
A child will find learning to read much easier if they can use stories which are familiar to them. They need landscapes, animals or characters that they know – to anchor them.
These are the types of stories that the Our Words Libraries (OWLs) are made of. We gather them by holding theatre workshops within remote communities. People of all ages attend; from schoolchild to village elder, everyone is given the chance to pass on their favourite bedtime tales and folklore. We take a selection of these and transcribe, illustrate, and print them. Hundreds of these story cards make up the libraries that we put into village primary schools.
It’s especially touching to read the stories where grandparent is passing their wisdom to grandchild. This is a real benefit of the OWLs, they put spoken heritage to paper, before it may be lost.
The OWLs fill a huge gap. But in communities where only 63% of teachers haven’t been trained, so much more can be done to improve children’s prospects.
Our teacher training equips existing, untrained teachers with new teaching techniques. We give them a good understanding of the national curriculum, and essential practices such as lesson planning. All of this combines to transform the children’s experience of school.
We also train a selection of teachers and PTA members to champion reading within their communities. They hold workshops to show illiterate parents that they have the power to nurture their children’s literacy. That the simple act of sitting with a child as they read out loud makes a world of difference to them.
OWL libraries established in Liberian primary schools
The OWL model works extremely well, and so we want to expand it to a national level. The signs are good, OWL storycards are already being used by the Liberian Ministry of Education in their teacher training programme. But it will take some investment to deliver the OWL project to other isolated, rural counties. We’re working on that. Please get in touch if you think you can help.