GBARNGA, Bong – Following two weeks of intensive training in phonics, oral language development, fluency, and comprehension, Liberia Reads! has graduated teachers and administrators from several schools in Bong.
The primary school level literacy program trained staff from schools including the Gbarnga Lutheran Training Center, the Keenan Institute, Smart Kids Academy in Suakoko, and Liberty Baptist Christian School in Gbarnga.
According to Lyn Gray, country director of Liberia Reads!, the program was developed by Geri Melosh, the executive director of the American-based nonprofit, the Children’s Reading Center, Inc.
Melosh, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, had initiated the project to provide intensive staff development for reading teachers at early grade levels (K2 through third grade).
“They have to learn about phonemic awareness and phonics – that means the sounds, understanding the different sounds, breaking them down and seeing how a sound matches up with a letter of the alphabet. Those are things that five and six-year-olds have to do to begin to read,” Gray told reporters during an interview.
She said the certified teachers can help students read more fluently with accuracy and comprehension.
Additionally, Gray said the program builds the capacity of early grade reading teachers and, consequentially, helps their students.
She added that much of the instructional materials are produced in Liberia and reflect the country’s rich culture while maintaining an international evidenced-based curricular scope.
For Jacqueline Wreh, a K2 teacher at the Keenan Institute, the training she acquired from the program has enhanced her ability to help her students understand phonics. She believes it will build their reading potential.
Wreh said she is appreciative to Liberia Reads! for the knowledge she has acquired: “The knowledge will help us to build the future of our children so that they will be able to read whatever piece of work given them.”
Melosh, who founded the program, also attended the graduation program, where she made remarks. She recounted that Liberia Reads! was first piloted at two elementary schools with four teachers and two principles in 2009/2010 school year.
She expressed excitement that the program now covers 29 schools and has trained more than 200 teachers and principals in Montserrado, Margibi, and Bong.
Melosh hailed the teachers for their commitment to the program and further encouraged them to remain dedicated to helping Liberian children build strong foundation in their early education.
“The reason why we have students that do well is because of you,” she said. “You are the people that go in the classroom day in, day out, to perform Liberia Reads!”
She continued: “You need to be very proud to be part of Liberia Reads! You need to be determined that everything you learned, you will go and use it for the benefit of children in this country; and you need to realize you’re making a big difference in the lives of children.”
Emmanuel Velemee, another beneficiary of the training, said most schools in Liberia do not teach phonics, which he said impedes students’ abilities to effectively pronounce words.
Velemee wants the Ministry of Education to include phonics in the curriculum for learners at the early grade level and ensures that it is taught thoroughly.
“I am grateful to Liberia Reads! for giving us this opportunity to add on our knowledge. We will use it to help the children to build their phonics,” Velemee said.
Liberia Reads! is supported by the Liberia Reads Association of Literacy Educators, a Liberian NGO affiliated with the International Literacy Association.
ALE provides training, inter-school competitions, and financial support to Liberia Reads! schools.
Featured photo by Moses Bailey