Vacation School: It’s Not Rocket Science But…
August 25, 2011 By Colin McElwee
My visit to Ghana last week however not only assuaged my earlier doubts but also highlighted some unexpected outcomes (we like those, especially when they are positive!). First, between 15 and 20 students attend each of the five daily classes in Kade and Adeiso schools—many more than we expected. Even better, some students have invited their friends who are in other classes or schools and not formally participating in the Worldreader e-reader program. Good sign! Especially if you think that the best recommendation for reading is from the kids themselves.
There was also a totally unexpected insight! Jacqueline, who coordinates the Vacation School for Kade’s primary class mentioned to me that this was the first opportunity for her as a teacher to focus on simply reading in a class context. The curriculum these days often is a choc-a-bloc of different subjects, and the only reading activity is the collective reading in class of the same text. Individual reading of books chosen by students for their own enjoyment is not normally an activity promoted during the school day. And by the time the students get home, they are often bombarded with other tasks, such as household chores or trips to the market, making it difficult for the reading habit to more fully develop.
Jacqueline was struck by the opportunity the Vacation School gave her as a teaching professional to occasionally help the kids or clarify a phrase, without worrying about the normal class routine. Often, though, she simply savoured sitting back and observing the kids engage in the one activity we all wanted them to do, and that is reading for their own pleasure and benefit.
OK, maybe this is not rocket science but it begs a few questions: What if there was an after-school Reading Club so children can keep reading if they wanted to and were able to? What if the Ministry of Education could be persuaded to put aside time in the curriculum for “unstructured” reading activity, time just to enjoy the act of reading for reading’s sake?
Simple and scalable, yes! But, Reading Clubs won’t, of course, address all of the issues surrounding the development of a culture of reading for all of the kids. It will, however, be one more small step towards exactly that.
In the end, habits have to be nurtured and mere access to books may not be sufficient for many. Taking one small step at a time ensures that we are learning progressively how to make the reading habit stick.