Today September 8, 2022, the United States joins the global community in celebrating International Literacy Day as a reminder about the value of literacy in building inclusive, democratic, more equitable, and prosperous societies. Despite the global goal and efforts to increase literacy, a recent report from UNESCO indicates that over 770 million people worldwide lack basic literacy skills. In Liberia, the Ministry of Education estimates that nearly one in two women and one in four men (ages 15-49 years old) cannot read proficiently.
To help address the root causes of illiteracy in Liberia, the United States through USAID, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and its partner RTI International, set out to help improve the reading skills of grades one and two learners through USAID’s Read Liberia Activity, a $28 million, five-year program implemented in six focus counties: Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado, and Nimba.
The Read Liberia program closed last month after training 4,500 teachers and reaching 180,000 early grade learners in 640 public primary schools. The program provided over 391,000 textbooks and mobilized over 600 Parent Teacher Associations to encourage at-home reading. The results of the program are unambiguous. An impact evaluation showed that students in schools supported by Read Liberia can read nearly two times more correct words per minute than students in non-Read Liberia schools. Furthermore, the Read Liberia program more than tripled the number of students who can read 50 or more correct words per minute.
The Ministry of Education is looking to build on the successes of the Read Liberia program and has already established a national reading technical working group to lead the effort. The Ministry has also identified master trainers from among the teachers trained to deliver the Read Liberia early grade reading curriculum to begin conducting their own reading training. These training sessions will also be open to private school teachers for a small fee and those teachers trained will be certified as “reading teachers.” In addition, the Ministry of Education will begin partnering with local printers to print learning materials created under Read Liberia for families to purchase at a modest cost, so their children have access to reading textbooks and other learning materials.
On this Day of International Literacy, the United States joins its Read Liberia partners in celebrating our collective achievements and remains committed to helping transform the lives of Liberian children by fostering a lifelong love of reading.