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Why your child may be a poor reader in school

By Augustine Oduor | Published Sat, June 17th 2017 at 00:00, Updated June 16th 2017 at 22:38 GMT +3

Your child is probably struggling to read basic English and Kiswahili because you missed the right age to enroll him or her to standard one.

A new Ministry of Education report reveals that children aged between five and nine years performed well in basic literacy skills compared to older or younger children. The required enrollment age of a child to Standard one is six years.

In addition to these, the study finds that between English and Kiswahili, children perform well in the language mostly used at home. But most noteworthy is the revelation that female teachers are better coaches for your child compared to their male counterparts.

Tusome External Evaluation Midline Report, which was released this week, finds that if a female tutor teaches your child, he or she is likely to be an excellent reader in class.

The multi-billion shilling early grade literacy programme report presented to Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i highlights nine key factors it says affects the reading scores of your standard one or two child.

The Sh7.3 billion programme targets standard one and two pupils across all 22,600 primary schools with an aim of improving literacy instruction and outcomes and is being implemented by the Ministry of Education. It aims at strengthening teaching of literacy and numeracy skills among children.

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With funding from USAID and the British Department for International Development Fund, the project delivers English and Kiswahili textbooks targeting class one and two children in public primary schools across the country.

Strong improvements

Approximately 1,150 Curriculum Support Officers (CSOs), 103,000 head teachers and teachers in all public primary schools have been trained on innovative methods of literacy instruction. Receiving the report, Dr Matiang’i announced that some 20 million textbooks had been supplied to primary schools for the last two years on a pupil book ratio of 1:1.

Overall, the report says in English, class one pupils performed best on the vocabulary and phoneme segmentation, followed by the passage reading subtasks. “Class one pupils saw the most improvement in phoneme segmentation, increasing scores by 27 percentage points from 11 per cent at baseline to 38 per cent at midline.”

Passage reading also showed strong improvements, with a 16 and 17 per cent gain. “Class 2 pupils performed best on passage reading, followed by the vocabulary and phoneme segmentation subtasks.”

And in Kiswahili, both classes performed best on listening comprehension. “In both classes, the pupils’ best performance was on listening comprehension, followed by letter sound knowledge,” reads the report.

The largest improvement however was in letter sound knowledge for Class 2 pupils, increasing from an average of 16 per cent correct at baseline to 40 per cent correct at midline.

Large gains were also seen in listening comprehension, which rose from 25 to 40 per cent.

However, in both languages, scores for reading comprehension – the most difficult subtask – improved but remained the lowest in terms of overall performance. “Reading outcomes for class one and two pupils greatly improved during the one year period between baseline and midline evaluations,” reads the report.

About 5,000 pupils in class one and two from a national sample of 200 schools were tested in both 2015 and 2016.

On average, the pupils showed improvements in their reading rates of between seven and 20 words per minute

Other key factors that affect the ability of a child’s reading habits are access to reading material, practice reading, increased frequency of curriculum support officer and availability of school libraries.

Having your child attend full day learning shift, having the right age in class and being taught by a female teacher also improves oral reading fluency scores for young children, the report shows. “The scores by pupils who were taught by female teachers were higher than those taught by male teachers,” reads the report.

Interestingly, schools led by a female teacher perform better as do those with head teachers of higher qualification.

It found no clear effect of class size on pupils reading outcomes. For classes with 21 pupils and below, standard ones recorded 32 per cent oral reading fluency scores in English. In Kiswahili, the rating was 18 per cent.

Fluency scores

And for class sizes of between 26 and 30 pupils, standard ones recorded 34.7 per cent oral reading fluency scores in English. They recorded 20 per cent in Kiswahili.

Standard one-pupil scores in bigger classes of 40 and above were placed at 20.5 per cent for English and 11.2 for Kiswahili.

Interestingly, if your child undertakes a full day shift, he or she is likely to perform better compared to those of half-day shift. The report also finds that pupils who have reading material at home posted better oral reading fluency scores.

Having someone read aloud at home did not make a difference for class one pupils, but did for class two pupils.

“Silent story reading at home, practice reading aloud to the teacher or another pupil and practice reading silently at school were all associated with higher oral reading fluency scores” reads the report.

This means pupils should be encouraged to read silently.

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