This post is by Judith Lee of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program. Photographs supplied by Concern Worldwide, the Dream Project and Impact Network.
The Library’s Literacy Awards Program recognized Concern Worldwide, the DREAM Project, and Impact Network in 2022 for their successful practices in engaging local communities. Representatives from Concern Worldwide, the DREAM Project, and Impact Network are featured guests in the February 2023 episode of the 2022-2023 Literacy Awards 5-part webinar series. Join us for a LIVE discussion on February 16, 2023, from 3:00-4:30 PM EST. Register here!
How does community engagement support your literacy program?
Concern Worldwide: In Niger, where access to education is still limited, especially for girls, community engagement is essential. Community school support associations are highly involved in Concern’s literacy program to increase ownership, support establishing long-term development plans for schools and monitor children’s attendance and learning. An innovative approach developed in rural areas ensures that children have continuous access to educational activities through community facilitators when the farmer parents go live next to their fields during the agricultural season and children can no longer attend school.
The DREAM Project: Mi Mundo is a free community magazine published by DREAM students. Young aspiring journalists create content relevant to children, youth and families in their community, written and organized in a bright, family-friendly publication that puts Dominican culture at the forefront. Students report on local stories rooted in Dominican life, such as community members, sports, food and music. Mi Mundo is the only magazine in the area written by community members for community members.
Impact Network: Community is at the heart of our work. Each year, we host forums to speak with parents, community leaders, and elders. We coordinate a Parents Day for caregivers to see what their children are learning, participate in a variety of literacy activities, and give us feedback directly. All of our schools also have the equivalent of a PTA where we work closely with parent leaders to improve the school and address any issues.
Why is your literacy program important to the communities you serve?
Concern Worldwide: As part of its global strategy, Concern aims to improve the lives of extremely poor and vulnerable children in a sustainable way by increasing access to quality primary education and supporting child wellbeing. In Niger, literacy programs help to reduce early marriages of girls, to prevent the risk of youth recruitment into armed groups, to improve hygiene and health conditions and provide better training pathways and economic opportunities.
The DREAM Project: Unfortunately, Dominican public schools do not have the resources to offer experiential learning opportunities for students. DREAM’s literacy programs – community libraries, after-school academic reinforcement, book fairs, teacher training, Mi Mundo magazine and student-author book competitions – allow our communities to interact with high-quality texts, build at-home libraries and even create their own literature. Our multi-faceted approach to literacy fosters improved reading and language outcomes, civic engagement, educational attainment and autonomy in students’ own learning.
Impact Network: In urban areas, students are exposed to print even if they don’t have reading materials in their home. They see street signs, store signs, grocery store labels, etc. and they are able to make associations with those letters and how words are formed. In rural areas, there is an absolute lack of print, leading to students relying on memorization to learn to read. The results of this approach have been disastrous. Our Read Smart program teaches letter sound-spelling relationships explicitly to boost literacy scores for our students.
A representative from ConTextos, the 2019 International Prize recipient, will moderate this discussion on February 16, 2023, from 3:00-4:30 PM EST. Register here!
The 2023 Literacy Awards application opened on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, and will close on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at 11:59pm ET. A recording of the February 2nd applicant information session will be available on the Literacy Awards website.
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I find that organizations and programs like this are inspirational. I work in America at a school that has all the resources available to my students. They all have the ability to get what they need. Seeing programs like this make me want to work harder to give my students the best that I can. I know that at the heart of it, I can provide more. The world gave me these students to teach and I will be able to provide for them. I wish you the best of luck