Locally-sustained Community Reading Camps
“In Community Reading Camps (CRCs), children are learning through playing. When children find a topic interesting, they study more. I have observed that after the READ interventions and its CRC activity, student attendance has increased in my school”. Ms. Parvin Sultana, Head Teacher of Durgapur Government Primary School, had this to say, highlighting the importance of the community reading camp in her area. She went on to say:
“The CRC is an interesting place where children’s creativity is nurtured. In rural areas like ours, we have limited out-of-school learning opportunities. We decided to manage the Duragpur CRC with our own effort after the READ intervention ended”.
Ms. Parvin was referring to how community people adopted the Duragapur CRC after the intervention of the USAID-funded READ program phased out at the end of 2016.
The community reading camp is an open place near the READ intervention schools, where the children of grade I-III engage in fun and enjoyable learning activities in order to improve their Bangla reading skills. The place can be any home premises, playground, local club or open gathering area within the respective school’s catchment area.
Ms. Parvin learned about the CRC through the school management committee (SMC) meeting and parent awareness sessions. Parent awareness sessions raised the profile of the importance of reading among the parents. She was amazed to see the techniques and methods used in the CRC for the early grade students to learn letters, words, sentences, conjunct letters. Community literacy volunteers (CLVs) read stories to the students from the storybook collection in the Camp. Students could also take books home to read and return them in the next session. Students drew pictures, played with alphabet cards, and colored in the CRC. That’s how they learned with fun. In every SMC meeting, Ms. Parvin promoted the continuation of the CRC in her area.
“If you see the colorful posters, festoons, print-rich and other reading materials surrounding the CRC, you will think that a festival is going on here,” said a parent. “My daughter tells me many stories which she heard from CLV’s.”
Like the other 1,362 CRC’s operating under READ, the Durgapur CRC in Kaliganj upazila, Jhenaidah district, created space for early graders to learn joyfully in the open air after their regular school day. READ introduced the CRC idea back in 2015 to reinforce their children’s reading skill. The financial support phased out in February 2017. Since then, the people of Durgapur have been managing it themselves, with encouragement from parents like Ms. Parvin Sultana.
“To conduct the CRC, we formed a 5-member committee that includes teachers and guardians. We are collecting a very small amount of financial support from the community” says Ms. Said Nahid Sultana, Bangla teacher of the same school. She observed a keen interest of some community people to keep it going. The community contribution is used to pay the CLV’s.
“Previously, students used to attend twice a week. Now it is scheduled 5 times a week, aiming to increase children’s learning outcomes by giving more time for reading practice.” Sultana monitors the number of times that children are engaged in the CRC per week. As a teacher in the local school, Ms. Sultana received training from READ on Bangla reading instruction so she is well aware of the building blocks leading to reading skill as well as the inputs needed, such as plenty of books and a print-rich environment.
As has happened in Durgapur, READ is progressively handing over the management of CRCs to communities. Dialogue with local government actors is being initiated in order to solicit their advice and support. So far, 77 CRCs are now operating under community ownership. This local commitment and contribution covers CLVs honoraria, provision of learning materials and regular monitoring.