A Simple Idea Goes a Long Way
September 24, 2011 By Zev Lowe
These last few weeks we’ve been chatting up our iREAD Vacation School. Now, that we have dug into the results and see the impact, we can’t stop thinking about it. It started out as a really simple idea: Give kids access to books during their long vacation. Worldreader couldn’t let them take their devices home because between kids moving and transferring schools, and kids dropping out for financial or academic reasons, it would have been way too risky.
What it turned out to be was something much more rewarding for the kids, the teachers, and us.
Initially, when we asked the teachers to allow the kids an opportunity for unstructured reading, there was a fair amount of resistance. This was very new to them, and some teachers even said, “African children can’t be left alone to read. We need to give them classes.” In the end, they agreed to participate. We also asked the teachers to spend time reading during Vacation School, which involved opening six schools from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., every weekday for five weeks. This was to model good behavior for the students.
While the kids were excited to hear about the opportunity to read during break, many expressed regret that they couldn’t attend because they were traveling far away to visit friends and family. Despite this setback, the average student managed to come in for more than a week of reading time. Some kids who might already be familiar to you were regular attendees. Degraff attended 17 days; Deborah was there 16 days, and George came 13 days, even though he was running his mobile phone credit stand at the same time.
The reading program had been set up only for the students involved in iREAD, but nobody had the heart to turn away the other students who showed up anyway. Their average attendance was slightly lower than the iREAD students, but one of them, Kingsley Komeku, a junior high student in Adeiso, showed up 23 of the 25 days.
Here’s another eye-opener. None of the non-iREAD students received any formal training in using the Kindle e-reader, but they picked it up with no problem at all. They learned by watching their friends and through trial and error. It’s heartening to know that there’s so much interest in reading… and that there’s so much demand for us to expand our program. To keep cultivating this reading habit, we’re handing out some gold stars:
- The kids who attended iREAD Vacation School for more than 12 days and who are part of the iREAD program will receive $8 of Kindle store credit so they can buy whatever books they want. Our digital publishing team is providing the students with recommendations of books they can buy at that price. Some children’s books are less than that, so maybe they’ll even be able to buy two books on their wish lists. It will be fun to see what they pick.
- We’re also giving teachers a $15 Kindle store credit as an extra thank you.
- The non-iREAD kids who spent more than 12 days in iREAD Vacation School will get a package of school supplies to encourage them to read more.
- And, we’ve put five Kindle e-readers in each school library for kids and teachers to use during their leisure time.