MONROVIA-Today, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy joined Liberian education officials and stakeholders to celebrate the closure of a five-year early grade reading program that significantly increased the skills of primary school students in six of Liberia’s 15 counties.
The USAID Read Liberia program was launched in 2017 and helped the Government of Liberia to reach 180,000 students in grades 1 and 2 from 640 public primary schools with upgraded early grade reading instruction in six Counties, including Lofa, Bong, Grand Bassa, Nimba, Margibi, and Montserrado.
Additionally, more than 5,000 kindergarten pupils benefited from improved reading skills and vocabulary enhancement, while over 4,500 teachers were trained in using the early grade reading methodology, and 391,418 teaching and learning materials were distributed.
Furthermore, the program improved the oral vocabulary literacy skills of approximately 2,700 kindergarten students from 60 public kindergarten schools and ensured that about 57,000 grades 1 and 2 students can read grade level text with fluency and comprehension.
Students in Read Liberia schools can now read nearly twice as many correct words per minute compared to students reading only 14 words per minute prior to the launch of the USAID-funded Read Liberia program. These interventions led to a dramatic increase from 13% to 35% in grade 2 students who met the national benchmark in reading of 35 correct words per minute.
Speaking at the event, Ambassador McCarthy said the United States shares Liberia’s vision that investing in quality education is a powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty, and for improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability. “The U.S. Government will continue to invest in educating young Liberians, especially at the early grade level. Because research shows that quality investments at that level, have significant multiplier impacts over the lifetime of children,” said Ambassador McCarthy.
In remarks, Assistant Education Minister for Fiscal Affairs, James Massaquoi thanked the U.S. Government for the support to the program that have impacted the lives of the children of Liberia. He said it was time for parents to go beyond being passive observers rather to be actively involved with their children’s education.
Utilizing research conducted by USAID and its partners, the program was designed to help the Liberian Government to fulfill its commitment to improve evidence-based reading instruction, provide teaching and learning materials, and improve early grade reading classroom instruction, service delivery, parent, community, and private sector support.
To further support the Ministry of Education, Read Liberia worked with the Ministry on the revision of existing materials and development of new teaching and learning materials, including teacher’s instructional guides, student activity books, story books, supplementary readers for kindergarten and grades 1 and 2.
More than 15,395 textbooks and other teaching and learning materials were distributed to teachers and students. The activity engaged 635 parent-teacher associations to support early grade reading activities that empowered parents and other community stakeholders to become leaders in their school communities to encourage and foster a culture of reading excellence.
The Read Liberia Activity applied international, evidence-based best practices, built on previous early grade reading programs, and strengthened the Liberian education system through embedded technical assistance to the Ministry of Education.