Millennium City and U.S. Students Chat and Read Aloud Online, Celebrating World Read Aloud Day

by |March 10, 2011
What does reading mean to you? Perhaps it’s a chance to explore a new subject or perhaps it’s about enjoying a good laugh. Reading means many things to many people, but one thing stands true: words are powerful, especially those words shared from one person to another.

Words – and worlds – were shared in celebration of the second annual World Read Aloud Day, organized by LitWorld, on March 9, 2011. As part of LitWorld’s much larger celebration of reading, literacy and learning, students from across the Millennium Cities connected with students in the United States via Skype, to share stories and talk about the importance of reading.

Arts & Technology student reading her team’s story aloud to Kumasi, Ghana, and other Washington, DC students, via Skype.

One of the day’s first linkages involved an exchange between the DREAM School, a charter school in East Harlem, NY, and LitWorld’s Migosi Girls Club, reading and speaking from Xavarian Senior High School in the Millennium City of Kisumu, Kenya. DREAM School students had the chance to ask questions and to discuss the importance of reading with the LitWorld staff and then watched as Hip Hop artist Spirit pumped up the crowd, leading a chorus of students in proclaiming, “WORLD!” “READ!” “ALOUD!” “DAY!,” one group after the next, and then reading to them from a book about peace. The Migosi Girls Club captured their experiences on video.

Young students from Harlem, NY's DREAM School await their Skype with Kisumu, Kenya's Migosi Girls Club.

Another exchange, this time three-way, involved Washington, DC’s Arts & Technology Academy (ATA), a DC public charter where all the children are entitled to free breakfast and lunch, and Sidwell Friends School, a Washington independent Quaker school, connecting, thanks to global communications giants Ericsson and Airtel Ghana, with Kumasi, Ghana’s Opoku Ware Junior High, bridging not only the physical distance between Washington and Ghana, but also bridging the deep economic divides within Washington itself. Despite the difficulties of maintaining a consistent three-way video link via Skype, the students were nevertheless able to exchange their own stories and questions. The students at Opoku Ware greeted everyone at ATA with a loud call of “AKWAABA,” the Twi language word used across Ashanti land for “welcome,” and were answered with shouts of “WELCOME!” by their American partners. Students and teachers heard each other read adventure stories composed jointly, thanks to the Internet, by the Opoku Ware and Sidwell Friends students, and then the schools broke off into pairs. The ATA students asked their Kumasi partners about the importance of reading aloud with family or friends, and were very impressed to learn how many languages their new Ghanaian friends actually speak. This initial exchange has planted the seeds for a potentially rich partnership between these three very different schools through MCI’s School2School program.

Arts & Technology students read their stories over a Skype connection to their partner classes in Washington, DC and Kumasi, Ghana.

In Accra, Ghana, students from Osu Home Junior High School connected with the Bronxville Elementary School in Bronxville, NY. The Mayor of Accra, the Honorable Alfred Vanderpuije, read to Ghanaian students and video-Skyped with Mayor Mary Marvin of Bronxville and the Bronxville public school students. Also in Accra, Boundary Road Cluster Junior High School connected with New Village Leadership Academy in Calabasas, CA, discussing why reading was important to them. Both Accra schools were wired in time to celebrate this special day, thanks also to MCI partners Ericsson and Airtel Ghana, which together have now wired 20 schools in Ghana’s two Millennium Cities.

Finally, high school French students at Wilmington Friends School in Delaware enjoyed conversing in French, also via Skype, together with students at their partner school, Bandiougou Bouaré Academy, in Segou, Mali.

French students from Wilmington Friends School converse via Skype with students in Segou, Mali.

Illiteracy affects nearly 800 million people worldwide* and is perhaps most widespread across sub-Saharan Africa. MCI’s ongoing partnership with LitWorld, which includes LitWorld’s training teachers in the Millennium Cities to organize and lead confidence-building Girls’ Clubs, encourages learning opportunities that foster literacy and other study skills, while building connections, opening windows to a world of educational opportunities and, in so doing, boosting girls’ self-esteem. The World Read Aloud Day celebrations across two continents, this year including 11 schools in four sub-Saharan and five American cities, contribute to this goal – providing students in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities with an invaluable opportunity to connect and share their own words, stories and dreams with students nearly halfway around the globe.

Students from Sidwell Friends School listen to students from Kumasi, Ghana share stories via Skype

MCI would like to thank all participating schools, students and teachers in all nine cities; the Mayors of Accra and Bronxville; corporate partners Ericsson, Airtel Ghana and GlaxoSmithKline; the City of Kumasi and the Kumasi School2School Partnership team; the Kisumu Girls Clubs teachers, the hard-working MCI staff and most of all, LitWorld, for giving so many children and teachers the opportunity to remember why reading is the key to freedom and self-empowerment.

*UNESCO

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