Ghana seeks to develop next generation of young readers

Michael Sarpong Bruce
They are young, live in deprived communities in the West African nation praised for its stable democracy, but they have poor reading and comprehension skills.

An early grade reading assessment report released by the Ghana Education Service in 2014, disclosed that most pupils in Ghana are performing poorly in reading and numeracy. The report said only two percent or fewer were able to read with fluency and comprehension.

The report also revealed that in every language, at least 50 percent, and often, more of the pupils assessed could not pronounce a single English or Ghanaian word correctly.

In a bid to support government’s efforts to cultivate and encourage reading among children aged between 6-13 years, mobile network operator Tigo’s flagship Corporate Social Responsibility programme, Shelter for Education, has partnered with Raising Readers Foundation, a non-governmental organisation to launch ‘Raising Readers’ initiative.

The first phase of the initiative, which will run until the end of 2017, aims to introduce the joy of reading with celebrities and prominent persons to children in deprived communities.

At the launch of the initiative at Bukom Park, a community in Accra, which is known to produce world boxing champions was graced by the country’s well-known musicians and actresses including award-winning musician Michael Owusu Addo, known popularly as Sarkodie.

Touching on her company’s commitment to education, the Chief Executive Officer of Tigo Ghana, Roshi Motman said: “Reading is priceless – it opens up doors beyond our imagination. It opens our eyes and minds to the world and it helps us improve on vocabulary and dictation. Language is the foundation of learning and development and reading helps us get the language right.”

She gave the assurance that the telecommunications company will continue to support Ghana’s socio-economic development through various initiatives under the Sustainable Development Goals.

She listed the company’s contribution to education to include infrastructural development for several basic schools in rural areas and the partnerships various organisations including Street Library Ghana and Reach for Change.

Recalling the importance of reading in her own life at the launch at Bukom Park, a community in Accra, which is known to produce world boxing champions, the Founder of Raising Readers Ghana, Nana Aba Anamoah said: “The question of what can be done to encourage reading in children just as my beloved father imbibed in my siblings and I is what has given rise to what we are launching today; Raising Readers Ghana.”

She continued: “As a child, I realised that the big challenge for teachers is not simply getting pupils to read but getting them to enjoy the act of reading. It is one thing for children to trudge through set texts in a lesson, but will they open another book when they get home at the end of the day? Becoming a lifetime reader is based on developing a deep love for reading.”

Ms Aba Anamoah, who is also a news anchor and editor at GHOne television explained that research has repeatedly shown that motivation to read decreases with age, especially if children’s attitude towards reading becomes less positive. If children do not enjoy reading when they are young, then they are unlikely to do so when they get older.

She said learning from a young age that reading is not only important, but also enjoyable, will make reading in communities a much more approachable task since it is one of the most fundamental skills that children must master to succeed in school.

The country’s Chairperson of Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, who was the guest speaker said: “I want to say that a nation without readers is a nation that is doomed. A nation without readers is a nation that does not have a future.

“From reading we learn the lessons of history, we learn about the histories of other people other than our nation, we learn the solutions to national and personal problems, we learn from the experiences of others and learn to appreciate that other people may have different viewpoints from us but it doesn’t make them wrong. From reading we learn life skills, we learn knowledge, and we learn wisdom. So, reading is critical to our survival as people as a nation.”
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