Books in local languages enhance child learning

Emily Wallace
Education Resource Adaptation Trainer
World Vision International

As one key pillar for Education and Life Skills, the abundance of locally relevant reading materials is critical to the achievement of improved learning outcomes through literacy, numeracy and life skills acquisition. One way that World Vision has been pursuing the achievement of this target, while also recognising the indispensable role that communities play in not only their children’s education, but also learning and life skills development within the community as a whole, is through a community engagement methodology for the creation of locally relevant reading materials.

Through engaging community members, young and old, men and women, stories that speak to each individual context, tradition, values, and hopes have been generated in local languages. These stories have included themes related to food security, child protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, and peace-building to name a few, while also seeking to improve literacy, numeracy and life skills. Materials creation trainings use community engagement as the platform for development of locally relevant reading materials or community generated reading materials.

In one community in Kenya, water was proving to be quite an issue. The community depended on one seasonal stream for all of their water needs. However when it rained, chemicals from their farms and animal waste would run off the hills into the stream, contaminating it. The only other source of water was a spring that was three kilometres away, but elephants had been known to attack the women when they were fetching water.

One innovative man within the community decided to solve the issue on his own, and created a simple roof catchment system for rainwater. During the community localisation session, the community members identified this man and his roof catchment system as a model for the rest of the community. They decided to write a story about him in order to spread his idea throughout the area, so more people would learn from his experience and find ways to provide clean water for their families.

After the community members wrote the story in their local language of Maasai, edited it, and identified the scenes they wanted to illustrate the story, World Vision staff contributed by compiling the text and photos into a simple software program, Shellbook Maker, and printed initial copies of the book for the community. Experiences similar to this have been seen throughout seven countries and nine language groups.