Better Books for a Better Start

Every day the childcare children gather around to enjoy a wonderful book read in their own language, Malagasy.
Sept. 24, 2010 text and photos by Chad Lebo

Considering 140 countries have a higher adult literacy rate than Madagascar, reading is a key concern at Akany Avoko (United Nations Human Development Program report, 2009). Addressing that concern begins early. And rightly so:
The evidence is clear as regards reading aloud to children. Ample research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes the development of language and other emergent literacy skills, which in turn help children prepare for school. (Archives of Disease in Childhood, May 13, 2008)

Just one of the over 50 picture books that have been translated into Malagasy. 
With help from the Akany Avoko Education Fund, a recently established US-Based organization, reading aloud to the children is now an everyday activity. The pre-school children are treated to 30 minutes of reading each weekday and the older children have 3 reading sessions a week. And there are no shortage of books to enjoy. 

Though there are frighteningly few children's books published in Malagasy, the Library at Akany Avoko has over 50 books available in the children's mother tongue. That might actually make it the largest Malagasy children's library in the country. All the books are thanks to some tireless work by a tri-lingual university student in Tana. She translates the wonderful French and English picture books in the library into Malagasy. 

Books are translated from their original French or English into Malagasy by a university student earning her Master's in English Language Education.
 All the books are important to getting Akany's kids off to a good smart start:
During shared bookreading, children learn to recognise letters, understand that print represents the spoken word, and learn how to hold a book, turn the page and start at the beginning. Shared bookreading is also associated with learning print concepts and exposing children to the written language register, which is different from spoken language, as well as story structures (eg, stories have a beginning, middle and end) and literacy conventions such as syntax and grammar which are essential for understanding texts. These emergent literacy skills are important for later success in reading. (Archives of Disease in Childhood, May 13, 2008)
I assure you, they are riveted not bored. It's hard to tell the difference in a photo.
The reading aloud program is just one part of several changes to the Akany Avoko library. The room itself was just repainted and the books are now in the midst of a major reorganization. All should be up and running for the start of the new school term in October. Stay tuned for an update about the grand reopening.

Do the kids like the books? Well, this was the scene about 3 seconds after Naly finished reading.


Irenee said...

This is a lovely story. It is so great to hear that reading stories has become an integral part of each child's life. Well done in finding a solution to the shortage of books in Malagasy. This is wonderful. All the best, Irenée.

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