The Family Literacy Initiative addresses a crisis that underlies all of Liberia’s challenges — one of the lowest literacy rates in Africa. The closing of schools for most of 2014 during the Ebola crisis exacerbated the existing serious problem. This new pilot project for FOL takes a family approach to literacy. It recognizes that parents are a child’s first teacher and partners FOL with the international evidence-based program Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters (HIPPY) to bring this program to three communities in Liberia.
Our other partner is the We-Care Foundation in Monrovia, a respected Liberian not-for-profit organization that publishes supplemental reading materials and trains teachers, to serve as the implementing Liberian partner for the pilot program.
Together with HIPPY-International and We-Care, we are committed to a program that will (1) increase parents’ literacy levels along with their children’s, and (2) will have a lasting and sustainable two-generation impact. If the two-year pilot is successful in preparing Liberian children for success in school, the program will be scaled up and expanded to other communities in Liberia
The HIPPY model
A primary goal of Home Instruction for Parents and Preschool Youngsters is to prepare children for long-term academic success, beginning in kindergarten. It has been particularly useful in low-literacy households with limited economic means. Families are instructed in the home by visiting trainers who provide literacy and numeracy exercises for children between the ages of 3 and 7. Research suggests that participation in HIPPY has been a catalyst for improved school readiness in diverse countries around the world and has effects on later academic achievement. Studies document benefits for young children with both immediate and longer-term impact. Parents’ increased involvement in their children’s education is also indicated.
Why the family approach?
FOL trained early childhood educators over 14 years after the civil war in Liberia. Trainers realized there were many challenges to getting children to read on schedule. Chief among them was low-literacy and poor reading habits in the home environment. Even teachers are not confident readers and schools are further challenged by the absence of reading material and the size of classes. An FOL Education Working Group researched many approaches over a year in which Liberian schools were closed due to the Ebola crisis. Early on, they decided that a family-based approach would address two generations at once and very likely more than one child in a household. They found in HIPPY International a willing partner with a model that has proven effective in many cultures where low literacy prevails.
First FLI training in Monrovia (November 2015)
Check out our video “Liberia Start-up 2015” showing Family Literacy Initiative orientation and training that launched the pilot.
Some photos from the training as well:
Dr. Miriam Wertheimer, Executive Director of HIPPY International and Barbara Kamara, FOL member and part of the Education Working Group (EWG) take part in the training with our partner We-Care.
Trainees take part in the FLI training with our partner We-Care.