Lo-tech Literacy Support: How USAID Helped Keep Reading on Track

Speeches Shim

In rural Mozambique, children often have little to no exposure to books prior to entering school.  If they have books, they are rarely in their mother tongue. For these children, learning to read is often an enormous challenge.

However, unlike most rural Mozambican children who are only exposed to books in Portuguese — a language fewer than 10% of children speak when they start school  — João Manuel, age 6, had access to supplementary reading materials which included story books in his mother tongue, Emakhua. He is now learning to read in a language he can speak and understand.

“Last year I used to see my brother and his friends reading their small books at home, and I liked to see the beautiful illustrations inside,” said João. Now he is in first grade and learning to read.
USAID Vamos Ler!/Let’s Read, a five-year bilingual early grade reading program, works with the Ministry of Education to develop, print, and distribute more than 11 million books in Emakhuwa, Echuwabo, and Elomwe , including the ones used by João and his friends at home and at school. 

Last year, during the school closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program had to act quickly to maintain student learning during the crisis. Complementing government initiatives, the Vamos Ler! provided support to school managers to ensure continuation of learning in low-tech environments. The program encouraged teachers and school directors to set up lending programs for children to take the supplementary bilingual books produced by Vamos Ler! home and read with their families. 

Ana Paula Antonia is João’s teacher. She is both teacher and school director at the EPC Murrupula, in Murrupula district, Nampula province and one of the teachers who successfully implemented this reading program.

“Last year, after the COVID-19 national emergency declaration and closure of schools in March, we coordinated with our school council and parents association to distribute supplementary books to students in order to support ongoing learning at home,” said Antonia. 

The supplementary reading books have child-friendly illustrations and stories that are relevant to daily life in rural Mozambique, while also sparking children’s curiosity and introducing new ideas and concepts that let them discover a world full of possibilities.  

“It was surprising for me to see how Joao developed so quickly, despite being in his first year in school. I have no doubt that always being close to his brother and friends and reading their books has helped him.”
João’s father is proud of his son’s accomplishments, and has no doubt that the fact that his son was “playing” with books at an early age had a role in his reading success. 

USAID Vamos Ler!/Let’s Read is a five-year bilingual early grade reading program, implemented by Creative Associates International.  It focuses on improving reading and writing skills of more than 800,000 children, reaching 1,950 schools and over 8,000 teachers in 21 districts of Nampula and Zambezia Provinces. 

Narrative by Fernanda Matsinhe, Vamos Ler!
Photos by Neves Anselmo, Vamos Ler!

Issuing Country 
Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 5:00am

Last updated: September 07, 2021