Below is a Peace Corps volunteer’s from-the-field report about a literacy effort she initiated. PCV’s are such a force for good in humanity. They serve in ways that change lives in lasting ways in their assigned communities. What awesome work they do! This PCV is currently structuring a plan to sustain this literacy program past her term of service.
A Family Outreach Program began in three informal settlements. Tribal leaders nominated residents to serve as “Community Development Coaches.” These Coaches were trained in early childhood development, play, nutrition, and gardening. Each Coach works with ten families for two years at a time, conducting weekly home visits and teaching both parents and children together. The program targets children ages 1-5 years whose caregivers do not have a source of income (excepting social grants). In 2011, toys and books were donated to each of the families in the program. The arrival of the books prompted the Coaches to request training in literacy. In November 2012, nine Coaches were trained on the SOUNS method and began to implement SOUNS with 110 children in the program.
Most of the children were immediately delighted with the SOUNS symbols. They readily mimicked the Coaches and eagerly handled the O-M-S-T as each sound was presented. Even the children’s caregivers were excited to participate. Many of these caregivers are illiterate, and SOUNS provides an opportunity for them to learn basic literacy skills alongside their children. At one home visit, the grandmother in charge of four young girls sat to the side, pronouncing each sound carefully and showing her granddaughters how to feel the symbol. X (pronounced “sh” in Tsonga) is already a favorite among the children who giggle every time they shush their Coach. By using the SOUNS method, the Coaches expect to prepare these children to enter Grade R on par with their peers who have attended crèche.