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How to help children learn and enjoy reading, even when schools are closed

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Schools may be closed, but children can continue to learn and enjoy reading storybooks during this difficult period. We’ve told you about wonderful places to identify good storybooks in previous blog posts.

In this post, we’re going to tell you about resources for parents and caregivers who want to help their children with learning and reading.

African Storybook (ASb) has written excellent guides, including one for parents titled Preparing to Use African Storybooks with Children. It is designed to assist parents in selecting the best storybooks from the African Storybook platform for their children. There are also a number of resources and activities on teaching early literacy, how to choose an appropriate storybook, the importance of illustrations, and more.

Click on help on the upper right of the homepage for the menu and you will find all of the ASb resources, including Preparing to Use African Storybooks with Children. You may also want to look through the other available guides.

The Mango Tree Literacy Lab (MTLL) is based in Lira, Uganda and works on literacy with primary school pupils in Leblango, the language spoken in the Lango sub-region. MTLL creates and prints books in Leblango, so children have stories that remind them of their own lives. All of the stories are on the Mango Tree website; some are also in English, as well.

MTLL invites parents into its work whenever possible to encourage them to be involved in their child's learning. The Parent Literacy Guidebook is a simple illustrated guide for parents of children in primary 1-3 to help them understand why learning to read in Leblango is better than starting immediately in English or another Western language. For parents outside of the Lango sub-region, just switch the references to Leblango to your mother tongue. There are numerous easy activities that can be carried out around rural and urban homes for parents and their children. The guide is in English and in Leblango. The link above is to the English translation.

Nal’ibali, which means ‘here’s the story’ in isiXhosa, is a South African organization that aims to improve the literacy skills of young children in their mother-tongue languages through reading for enjoyment and storytelling. The organization creates stories and other resources in English and ten South African languages.

Nal’ibali has produced several multilingual ‘tip sheets’ for parents. They include the benefits of sharing stories with children; when, where, and how to share stories with children; tips on story activities and choosing books; reading to toddlers; reading to your older child; and why it is important to read to children.

Room to Read (RtR), a US-based organization, works on early childhood literacy in 10 countries (three in Africa and seven in Asia). It both produces storybooks under its own RtR imprint and works to improve the capacity of local publishers to publish their own. Most recently, with funding from The World Bank and in collaboration with the South African Basic Education Department, RtR carried out a project to assist five South African publishers improve their ability to produce storybooks for young children in isiZulu, Tshivenda, siSwati, Xitsonga, Sepedi, and English.

As a part of this work, RtR published a set of guidelines titled What Makes a Great Storybook? Anyone interested in how to select a good story for young children would be interested in this guide. It nicely supplements the ASb publication described above because the RtR discussion and recommendations are about all storybooks, not ones from a specific publisher.

The Ubongo Toolkits platform was set up by Ubongo to provide a way to download and use all of the resources in Akili and Me for the pre-school set and Ubongo Kids, primarily math and science for older children. Most of the materials are videos that Ubongo calls ‘edutainment,’ although there are a few print materials, as well. Ubongo plans to mount its entire library on the toolkits platform.

There are a few videos for parents and caregivers, with tips for parents and caregivers on helping children learn necessary skills. The ones currently on the platform are in Kiswahili only, although more videos and languages will be added. In the above screen capture, titled Wewe ni Mwalimu wa Mtoto Wako a grandfather explains that it is never too early to begin teaching skills to children, in this case his infant granddaughter. Even if babies can’t speak, they can listen.


All Creative Commons (CC) licences, which are described below grant different rights to the user. But all of them require attribution. You must always acknowledge authorship.

African Storybook uses a CC BY licence. The Room to Read guide is also CC BY. This means that you may download, print, distribute, and adapt these resources without requesting permission.

The Mango Tree Literacy Lab uses a CC BY-NC-SA licence. This means that you may download, print, distribute, translate and otherwise adapt these resources without requesting permission – but only for noncommercial purposes. If you adapt MTLL resources, you must license them with exactly the same licence that MTLL uses. SA means share alike.

The Ubongo Toolkits uses a CC BY-NC-ND licence. This means that you may download, print, and distribute resources without requesting permission, but only for noncommercial purposes. ND means no derivatives. You may not change the material in any way, without requesting permission. You must register on the Toolkits platform in order to download, but it is free of charge.

Nal’ibali does not give licensing information on its website.




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