Parents urged to provide reading environment for children

A non-profit organisation, Worldreader, has urged parents to provide conducive reading environments for their children to help them to appreciate the essence of the exercise.

It has proposed a digital solution in the form of the BookSmart app that leverages the nation’s current mobile phone penetration to prop up reading culture among children to achieve improved academic outcomes.

It said improving reading culture among young learners would enhance their grasp of academic materials and improve their chances of success in academics and in life generally.

The West Africa Regional Director of Worldreader, Leslie Ofosu Tettey, said the organisation was focused on improving reading outcomes, with emphasis on children between ages three and 12.

At a sensitisation forum for the media in Accra held in collaboration with Strategic Communication Africa Limited, he said this was to impact families and societies in their attitudes towards reading.

It is estimated that 64 per cent of 10-year-olds across the world cannot read and understand a simple story, while 30 per cent of children do not have foundational reading skills, with sub-Saharan Africa even far more behind.

Mr Tettey said research also suggested that most poor families did not have books at home, and that the lack of access had a limiting effect on the effort to change behaviours.

He said the ability to decode, process and understand texts was key to human and social development.

Mr Tettey said “often, the main cause of the low primary school reading performance is the reading delay”.

“It is essential to invest from early childhood and at home, and create a family reading habit,” he said.

He said despite the efforts, a few basic challenges still persisted.

For instance, he said, government spent four per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on education instead of the targeted six per cent, while teacher to pupil ratio in primary school remained one to 30 on the average.

He said only seven per cent of grade three schoolchildren — aged eight to nine — had foundational reading skills, while only seven per cent of homes had books for children.

Mr Tettey said over the next three years, Worldreader would focus on increasing reading impact among children aged three to 12, with emphasis on those between ages eight and 12, usually of classes four to six.

He said Worldreader offered a digital solution through a BookSmart app accessible on mobile phones, tablets, computers and other electronic devices.

The app, he said, was a digital library with over 3,000 books in multiple languages.

“In 2021 and 2022, over 4,300 Ghanaian families, children, and teachers actively read on BookSmart. Our readers engaged with titles that are age-appropriate, culturally relevant, curriculum-aligned, and promote social-emotional learning and gender equity.

“BookSmart offers 3,000+ books in five major languages and several local languages, including English, Ewe, Asante Twi, Akuapem Twi and Fanti,” he said.

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