“No longer afraid to read”: Dinknesh’s story
By Feteh Demmelash
“My reading and writing abilities have changed a lot after joining the club,” says Dinknesh Solomon, a grade 2 student participating in the READ Community Outreach program funded by USAID. “Now, no words are difficult for me to read especially from the grade two Wolayttatto new reading materials and textbooks, and I love reading,” she adds. “I like these new reading materials because they have cool pictures and attractive stories.”
Dinknesh Solomon is an eight-year-old girl from a small village called Halale in Kindo Didaye Woreda in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region of Ethiopia. She has been a member of the Halale Primary School Reading and Writing Club since November 2016, when the club was established. Dinknesh used to be shy in class and was a struggling reader when she first joined the club.
Reading and Writing Club volunteer, Data Loha, recalls how shy Dinknesh used to be when she asked her to start a game or sing a song when the girl first signed up for the club. Data says singing a song or starting a game helps shy girls like Dinkinesh relax and participate more in the reading and writing activities. Dinknesh’s homeroom teacher, Libnesh Chinasho, adds, “Before joining the reading and writing club, Dinknesh was struggling academically and was in the slow readers’ category. She was reading fewer than 20 words per minute in her mother tongue, Wolayttatto. She was also very quiet and shy, setting her eyes on her fingers, the table or the ground when talked to, with little interest to participate in class.”
The reading activity model of READ Community Outreach gives students like Dinknesh the opportunity to practice reading and writing in an enjoyable way. The 90-minute session in the reading and writing club includes songs, word and other games, story time in which a volunteer reads aloud to club participants, individual reading activities, and practice time with a peer or ‘reading buddy’. This approach gives children multiple opportunities to develop a rapport with the reading volunteer and other children.
Parent and community awareness on and engagement in reading activities has also influenced the effectiveness of the READ Community Outreach model for reading. When a READ Community Outreach officer visited Dinknesh’s family, her father excitedly said, “I never had a visitor who would want to talk to me about my children’s education before”. Dinkinesh’s parents are illiterate. However, because of the awareness raising support they received through READ Community Outreach, they give their child time to read at home and follow up on her academic progress.
“My parents tell me to always be punctual. When I have assignments, my elder brother helps me do them and he sometimes reads to me.” says Dinknesh.
Dinknesh is now one of the outstanding Halale students who read 81 words per minute fluently—more than double what the average child of her age and grade level is able to read, according to evaluations made on reading performance three years ago. Her class participation has greatly improved, and she is no longer afraid to read in front of her class. She is now seen by other children as a leader in her class and wants to become a teacher when she grows up. “I have to work hard and read in the morning and afternoon to become a teacher,” she says. “Looking at her great improvement so far, I can say she will realize her dreams and have a successful future if we all continue to support her, identify her gaps and work with her family,” says Chinasho, her Wolayttatto teacher.