Jennifer is in the second grade in Nicaragua, and her dream is to become a painter in Paris when she grows up.
This International Literacy Day, see how one of our programs combines reading and nutrition to help ensure bright futures for children like Jennifer!
Today is the 50th anniversary of the UN International Literacy Day. We’ve come a long way—in 1957, UNESCO reported 44% global illiteracy, and today that number is down to 15% of the world’s population. But there is still much to do—that 15% represents 758 million adults who cannot read or write.
World Vision focuses much of our programming on eliminating barriers to and ensuring quality education for children, helping them learn to read early so they can read to learn later.
One such program is the USDA-funded Children Reading and Nourished (CREAN) education project in Nicaragua. On a recent monitoring trip, I drove up to a rural school to visit with teachers and children in class. I was delighted to meet Jennifer, an enthusiastic 7-year-old 2nd grader who loves nothing more than burying her nose in a book. When I walked into her class, her teacher was reading a book about values that was provided by the project. Her teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grow up. Jennifer answered, “I want to be a painter in Paris.”
Jennifer’s school is one of 500 rural schools in Nicaragua that World Vision and USDA support through CREAN. Food insecurity is a barrier to education for many children like Jennifer in this area, which is one of the poorest municipalities and prone to drought, so we provide a school meal to ensure that they are well nourished and can focus on their classes.
CREAN also strives to cultivate a better environment in which children’s reading skills can improve by working closely with the Ministry of Education to train teachers in reading instruction, provide essential teaching supplies and books, and help parents become partners in reading with their children to promote the joy of reading.
Teacher training and the provision of books that are fun for children help students enjoy reading and thinking creatively. Jennifer is a very attentive child and is one of the first students to respond to questions posed by her teacher after reading a story. This demonstrates that good nutrition, accompanied by improved teacher competency and essential materials, can lead to a positive impact on learning.
Her teacher says, “Jennifer always says she is a designer, likes crafts and painting, working in teams with her classmates, and reading with them.” She has enjoyed reading stories such as “History of Two Toads,” which is helping to improve her reading skills. During recess she also benefits from a healthy snack that the project provides as an alternative to candy, other unhealthy foods, or simply not eating because her family can’t afford it.
During my trip to Jennifer’s school, I saw an array of engaging teaching and learning materials in reading corners where children can read literature and learn independently. Most of these are colorful and interactive learning aids provided through CREAN that help teachers use active instructional reading methodologies that are fun for children and aligned with the Ministry of Education curriculum.
As I spoke with Jennifer, I realized how much she values her family and especially respects her mother and grandparents. Respect and values are mutually reinforced through her various activities at school that promote reading about positive values, age-appropriate books that strengthen the imagination, strong study habits, and good behavior, all of which allow her to maintain good grades. And some of her success can be credited to her mother, who faithfully participates in family and parent group meetings.
Through programs like CREAN, World Vision and our donors are enabling communities and parents to foster a love for reading in children like Jennifer by ensuring that she is well nourished, supported, and equipped for pursuing her dreams.
Alisa Phillips is the Senior Technical Advisor for Education. This post was written with contributions from CREAN project staff.
CREAN is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. The contents of this blog entry are the responsibility of World Vision, Inc. and do not necessarily reflect the views of USDA.