Inspiring a love of reading
Ncamsile Motsa is a preschool teacher in rural Swaziland, Southern Africa. Ncamsile is a passionate, dedicated educator who had no formal training as a teacher when she started training at Vusumnotfo. Ncamsile has always had the raw material she needs to be an amazing teacher. Now, after a year of intensive, in-service trainings she is gaining the skills she needs to back up her passion, dedication and love of children. Ncamsile has transformed her classroom, her schedule, and her approach to teaching.
The change in Ncamsile’s classroom becomes particularly clear at story time. A year ago story time wasn’t even on the program and Ncamsile rarely read to the kids. Now she uses her limited supply of books everyday. After recess all of the kids crowd around to hear Ncamsile energetically read, interpret, and act out a story. Ncamsile engages the students in the story and they excitedly jump up and thrust their hands in the air so that they can answer her questions.
Vusumnotfo’s philosophy is that the best way to teach reading is to inspire a love of books in children from an early age. When a child learns to love reading their world expands. Ncamsile’s students have multiple chances to read throughout the day and they are beginning to treasure these times. Something magical has happened in Ncamsile’s classroom; reading has been transformed from a chore into a treat. Because of this Ncamsile’s students will have a huge advantage over their peers. They will be more likely to read, have better reading skills, have a broader knowledge base and are more likely to get jobs and attend university (Snow et al. 16)*.
Ncamsile’s story is typical for the teachers with whom Vusumnotfo works. Literacy rates are fairly high in Swaziland but reading for pleasure is extremely rare. Without this vital part of literacy most children never move past a basic competency with reading and never master reading to learn.
Vusumnotfo approaches this problem by helping rural preschool teachers develop a love a books and pass that on to their students. We teach storytelling, bilingual reading, and try to share our passion for books. Our level based approach meets each teacher at their starting point and helps them improve their teaching incrementally, giving all of our teachers the opportunity to become world-class educators.
None of the teachers that Vusumnotfo works with have a lot of resources. The walls of Ncamsile’s classroom, for example, are made mostly of cardboard and there is little space to move in the building because of the 20 some benches left there by the church that uses the building on weekends. Other teachers hold class on top of mountains, down roads that wash out every time it rains, or in buildings made of mud and sticks. None of the teachers are able to purchase toys, art supplies, or learning aids. However, all of the teachers are learning to see these limitations as assets. They use their limited resources to create, toys, books, and games. In doing so they are teaching their students that they do not have to be limited by circumstance or money and that anything is possible with a little ingenuity, some hard work, and a lot of creativity. These teachers are demonstrating that great teaching is not about money or resources. Great teaching is about skill and passion and the teachers have this by the boatload!
Swaziland faces a myriad of problems: the world’s highest rates of HIV, rampant unemployment, and gender inequality to name a few. The seeds of solutions to all of these problems lie in education and one of the keys to ensuring high quality education to at risk populations is inspiring a love of reading in the youngest of children.
Because of this and because we have already received a very generous donation of 5,000 books from Books for Africa your donation will go directly out library and training programs. Your donation will help us further our training of teachers, create an inspiring library space, and support our teachers as they grow the readers and leaders of tomorrow.
*Snow, Catherine E., M. Susan Burns, Peg Griffin, eds. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1998. Print.
I like books
Reading every day
Playing with blocks