Across sub-Saharan Africa, where the Millennium Cities Initiative is working to help selected secondary cities attain the Millennium Development Goals, more than 150 million adults, or 38 percent of the adult population, lack basic literacy skills. Fortunately, a number of organizations are working hard to change this. LitWorld, a NY-based non-governmental organization dedicated to improving global literacy and a long-time Millennium Cities partner, held its third annual World Read Aloud Day on March 7, which presented an opportunity to engage in literacy-building exercises and advocate for global learning opportunities. Students from several Millennium Cities participated, joining others around the world to honor learning and literacy.
In Kisumu, Kenya, students from Kisumu Day High School for Boys, Kisumu Girls’ High School and Girls LitClub members from Migosi and Magadi Primary Schools joined the celebrations. The younger girls listened attentively as the Migosi head teacher narrated “The Adventures of Mabu and His Sister,” defining new words and testing students’ knowledge along the way. Girls’ LitClub members then recited the poem “Happiness is a Feeling,” and a student read one of her favorite short stories. Students also had the opportunity to Skype with children’s book author Terry Farish, who read a short story on a girl’s experience at a new school in Colombia. The girls concluded the day with some creative work, writing about their environment and the importance of reading aloud.
Kisumu Girls’ High School connected with Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, Calif., reading passages from favorite books to each other via Skype. At Kisumu Day High School, the boys commemorated World Read Aloud Day by reading three English-language stories, “The Ogre and the Twins,” “The Scandal at the Kiosk” and “The School Bully,” after which they engaged in a discussion of the virtues associated with reading. The following day, they, too, Skyped with students from Los Gatos High. One of the Kisumu students recited a poem, while Los Gatos students discussed the books they are reading, including “The River Between” by Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
In Louga, Sénégal, students at École les Cracks marked the occasion by reading aloud and discussing the importance of literacy. To see the video presentation, click here. Students from St. Louis Senior High School in Kumasi, Ghana, responded to questions about learning and girls’ education from students at Sidwell Friends Upper School in Washington, D.C., honoring yet another celebration, International Women’s Day, on March 8, while students from Sidwell Friends Lower School joined the World Read Aloud Day festivities by reading two stories. Another MCI partner, the Park School in Baltimore, Md., connected via Skype with The International School in Dakar, Sénégal.
Schoolchildren from Arts & Technology Academy in Washington, D.C., a repeat participant in World Read Aloud Day, read “The Lorax,” by Dr. Seuss. The first-grade class at A&T Academy also Skyped with a partner first grade at the Rosa Parks Community School in Orange, N.J., reading aloud Dr. Seuss’s “One Foot” and discussing how so many people throughout the world cannot read or write. The students, excited to share their love of reading with children at another school, have decided to keep in touch.
Asia Initiatives, one of our World Read Aloud Day co-sponsors and a partner on last year’s “Stand Up for Girls” rally, organized celebrations for women and girls at the Pondicherry Community Learning Center in India.
MCI has worked closely with LitWorld to encourage literacy and to advocate for increased access to learning opportunities in the Millennium Cities through such events as World Read Aloud Day and “Stand Up For Girls,” a September event promoting every girl’s right to an education on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl. LitWorld has also trained teachers in Kisumu and Kumasi to lead Girls’ LitClubs, which bring together young girls to foster reading, writing and other skills, while also boosting their self-confidence, trust and capacity for friendship. This year’s World Read Aloud Day provided students from some of the world’s underdeveloped urban communities an opportunity to share stories and poems with their classmates and to connect with others – some halfway around the world – in celebration and acknowledgement of the importance of literacy.