Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guest Post from Rescued Readers: Bringing Literacy to the Children of Africa

.Today’s post is from Tammy Flowers of Rescued Readers.  This organization strives to bring literacy to the children of Africa. As Tammy states below:
The goal of Rescued Readers is not simply to deliver books, but to build a sustaining relationship between schools in America with schools in Africa.
 I am a big fan of this organization and as you read Tammy’s words, I believe you will be, too.

I am a wife, mother, educational administrator, professor and grew up experiencing poverty. I grew up knowing the uncertainty of where we would live after being evicted again, the anxiety of making new friends at yet another school, the embarrassment of going to the grocery store and using food stamps and the gripping fear that poverty would be my life forever.

I was fortunate.  I was fortunate that I had role models in my life that taught me the value of literacy.
A love of reading…searching for answers…escaping to another world…finding dreams and solace in the pages of a book.
 Literacy saved me. 

I first went to Africa simply because I was invited.  Officially, it was a ‘mission trip’, but by the true definition of ‘mission’, one must have a purpose or an ultimate goal in mind.  I was simply going because I felt called. 

As an educator, I was drawn to support the teachers who worked in the orphanages we were planning to visit.  And so it was decided, my focus would, of course, be literacy.

Several months and 18 grueling hours on a plane later, I found myself in the ‘cradle of humanity’, Ethiopia. As I stood at the front door of the KG (kindergarten) classroom, children were sitting in groups at tables as the teacher stood at the head of the class leading a mathematics lesson.  I simply observed, nervously waiting for my opportunity to stand in her place.

It was time.  The teacher introduced me, and the children were curiously anticipating what the ‘ferenge’ (foreigner) in their classroom had brought to share. 

My lesson plan was designed such that they would build letters from the American alphabet using materials they could find anywhere.   I was immediately impressed at their knowledge of the American alphabet.

I complimented the teacher on her knowledge of the names of letters and asked her how well they knew their letter sounds.  She gave me a ‘so-so’ kind of response and my lesson evolved into a slightly more advanced lesson on phonetics.  About five minutes into the lesson, she timidly tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Do you have some time today that you could teach me the letter sounds?”

I later learned that although young children are expected to read and write English as well as their native language, their teachers need only have an 8th grade education.  I took this opportunity to share my knowledge and love for literacy as much as I could with this young teacher. 

I asked her if I could read the students a story. The confused gaze that she gave me still haunts me today.  “We have no books,” she said.

I had prepared myself for their lack of traditional facilities, amenities and even running water…but I had not been prepared for a lack of books. 

At that moment, I made a promise to those children, that I would bring them books.  My ‘mission’ had been revealed.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Rescued Readers was born in that small KG classroom in the heart of Ethiopia.  

The goal of Rescued Readers is not simply to deliver books, but to build a sustaining relationship between schools in America with schools in Africa. Students will know each other and embrace one another’s culture.  Teachers from the American school will even travel to Africa to meet their new partners in learning.  

In creating a literacy program enveloped in a supportive relationship, a culture of literacy that offers true change will begin to permeate the lives of the children…one small village at a time.  Simultaneously, a youthful awareness of a world beyond our front door is created at home.  One that builds compassion, empathy and a giving spirit that will last a lifetime. 

Over the course of several returned trips and established libraries, Rescued Readers remains a small entity.  We do this because we value partnering with communities, educating their teaching staff, and building relationships that make a lasting difference. 

However, a small organization translates into a limited budget.  People often ask themselves, where should I invest?  They ask, “Where will my money make a true difference?” 

Rescued Readers is your answer…an organization that has no administrative salaries to pay, allowing sponsoring funds to be allocated 100% to programming.   You have the opportunity to be a supportive role model in the life of a child who is experiencing life without the beauty of the written word at his fingertips.  You have the opportunity help break the chains of generational poverty.  You have the opportunity to offer a child…
A love of reading…the chance to search for answers…escape to another world…find their own dreams and solace in the pages of a book.

Thanks, Tammy for this post. Keep up this excellent work!
Please check out the Rescued Readers . It's worth the visit.


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