Digital Reading, People, Projects | December 12, 2022

Helping Teachers Like Leah Overcome Barriers


Getting children reading is more complex than it seems, as communities around the world each face the global learning crisis as well as a unique set of barriers. See how BookSmart has allowed a Kenyan teacher named Leah to overcome some of these challenges in her own classroom, and how you can help others do the same.

Helping teachers like Leah overcome barriers

We often discuss the importance of getting children reading, and we’re on a mission to do just that. But to understand the full picture, we need to address why it can be so difficult for teachers and parents to get children reading, especially in under-resourced communities.

This looks different for every caregiver in every country — take Leah’s situation for example. She’s a deputy head teacher at St. Paul’s Primary School.

The school is tucked in Kenya’s lush Tigoni zone. But many of the school’s 800 pupils are not from here. Their families came looking for work on one of the many tea farms the region is known for. This means a significant number of these students do not actually speak the language spoken in the area, making learning and teaching more complicated.

Looking closer at these students’ situation, we learn that the wages offered to tea pickers are not substantial, and many in the community struggle to get food and necessities.

Leah overcoming barriers in her classroom

Understaffed schools means educators in need of support

Finally, we take a look at the staff people like Leah. As deputy head teacher, she’s in charge of behavior, attendance, teacher observation, and issuing supplies. But that’s only in addition to the main role – the teaching. 

Leah teaches science, home science, and physical education across five grade levels, totaling a staggering 26 weekly lessons for one teacher as opposed to the average of 12 in an adequately staffed school.

But as a veteran educator with nearly 25 years of experience under her belt, she’s determined to make a difference in the lives of her students. Inspired by her favorite teacher, her mother, Leah always knew she wanted to be an educator. Her love of children is evident not just in the weekdays she spends inspiring her pupils, but the Sundays she dedicates to teaching children at her church.

Although students show up to Leah’s school eager to learn, they often face language barriers and their few teachers are overworked. One teacher at Leah’s school notes that, “some kids eat in the evening and in the morning they don’t take anything, so when they get to school they cannot even concentrate.” So how can we help how can you?

BookSmart offers opportunity

We give teachers like Leah access to BookSmart, training, data and supportive programming so they can get children reading. BookSmart offers hundreds of digital books in various languages for free, allowing pupils to read from around the world, or in this case, sharpen English or Kiswahili skills. 

Finally, hundreds of BookSmart stories are accompanied by fun learning activities, and while this doesn’t remove the incredible burden on understaffed schools, it does provide teachers with simple lesson plans to keep their students engaged after the story has ended – in and out of school.

Since the implementation of the BookSmart app in Leah’s lessons, she’s noticed incredible benefits in her classroom such as increased comprehension of reading material. But one of the most special changes was the self-confidence boost she saw in her young readers. Leah likes to read from BookSmart aloud to her class, offering small incentives for those who answer questions about the story correctly. 

“You can see that they want to try and answer the question because there is something you have promised them…,” Leah explains. “So they are competing to answer the question. So even those students who are down, could not talk, could not answer anything, you can see that they are trying because they are trying to open up… you can see now how the performance is changing in the class.”

By supporting Worldreader, you’re making tools like BookSmart accessible to teachers like Leah. You’re helping educators overcome barriers they face in getting children reading.