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Early grade literacy in African classrooms: Lessons learned and future directions

This transnational thematic study of early-grade literacy brings together current research findings and program outcomes in the area of early-grade literacy in African nations, to highlight lessons learned and suggest possible future direction for improving early-grade achievement in reading and writing.
This study represents some of the best current research on literacy in early primary grades in Africa, carried out by four non-government organizations that focus on literacy learning: Save the Children, RTI International, PRAESA and SIL International.
The study makes the following recommendations:
  1. Literacy – specifically, learning to read and write - must be central to the primary education curriculum.
  2. Children learn to read and write successfully when they engage regularly with authentic and enjoyable reading and writing activities, and when they master the building blocks of text (letters, syllables, words) within a context of meaningful use of reading and writing. 
  3. Regular assessment of students’ literacy learning is essential, in order to ensure that learning is taking place as planned. 
  4. Teacher capacity is central to the entire endeavor of early-grade literacy learning. 
  5. Reading materials of sufficient quantity, quality and variety serve a significant role in successful early grade literacy acquisition – including appropriate materials for reading aloud to the learner. 
  6. Since reading and writing are meaning-filled activities, learning to read and write must also be meaning-based; this means, among other things, that it must be done in a language the student understands.
  7. Multilingualism must been seen as a resource, and used intentionally to strengthen the child’s ability to learn curricular content.
  8. Moving from pilot projects for reading and writing to national-level systems is crucially necessary in order for the knowledge that is gained in local contexts to be beneficial to the entire nation. 
  9. Change of the magnitude required for African nations to attain success in early grade literacy does not come quickly or without significant attention. Improvement in reading and writing scores, and  improvement in learning in general, could take some years to become obvious. For this reason, success in early-grade literacy must not be tied to short-term projects or strategies, but must be an education and development priority for the long term.



Trudell, Barbara, Dowd, Amy Jo, Piper, Benjamin, & Bloch, Carole. (2012). Early grade literacy in African classrooms: Lessons learned and future directions. ADEA Triennale on Education and Training in Africa.

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