Rhona and Child

International Literacy Day

As this week marked the date of International Literacy Day, our School Coordinator Rhona Mackay from England (in the picture above) takes a look at the many (and sometimes surprising) benefits of literacy – and what HOOP does to help – in this week’s blog.

Worldwide there are 775 million people aged 15+ without basic literacy skills – two-thirds of them women. It comes as no surprise that illiteracy is associated with extreme poverty, but the ability to read and write also has an impact in other ways – for example, there is a high correlation between illiteracy and prejudice against women. Also, educated parents (especially mothers) are more likely to send their children to school and to help them with their studies.

Primary and secondary education in Peru is compulsory and free, and the literacy rate here has been steadily rising in the last couple of decades. The latest statistics put it at 94%, though with a big difference between rural and urban areas. There is also an inequality between genders when it comes to literacy – 97% of men are classed as literate compared to only 91% of women.

The Flora Tristán community is fortunate, with the majority of HOOP students attending their local schools in the mornings. So by the time kids reach my class (Koala, ages 7-10) they are already confident at reading and writing. For pre-schoolers, we also offer a kindergarten program where we help introduce kids to the alphabet and books.

Learning is fun

Being able to read and write in one language is essential. But a second language brings a whole range of extra benefits. For example, kids who learn a second language in school perform better in other academic areas. Learning a foreign language also increases the level of literacy in children’s native languages, so kids who know a second language are generally more likely to be able to express themselves confidently.

When I put questions about reading to the kids in my class, most of them said they enjoyed reading and they named a wide variety of different literature, from comics to Robinson Crusoe and even Moby Dick!

It’s good to know that they like learning outside the classroom, but sometimes it can be hard to get kids enthusiastic about reading, especially in a foreign language. In my experience it can help to use something you know they already enjoy (such as Disney princesses or Dragon Ball Z, to use examples from my class!) and build upwards from there. Once they get the idea that reading can be fun, the sky’s the limit!

Words by Rhona Mackay
Photos by Elise Fjordbakk

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