Linda, one of the directors at an elementary school in Carrefour, volunteers to read at the schools reading club. In Haiti, the Red Nose Day Fund is helping children improve the quality of education. Photo credit: Susan Warner/Save the Children, February 2016.

Reading-club volunteers Ronald and Charles start the day’s activity with a song at an elementary school in Carrefour, Haiti. The program was made possible by the Red Nose Day fund.

Red Nose Day Helps Create Rock-Star Readers

The school day has just ended at an elementary school in metropolitan Port-au-Prince, and nearly all the students have left. But the playground suddenly erupts with screams of glee.

No, world-famous rock stars haven’t just entered the courtyard at this school in Carrefour – it’s the older student volunteers who help run a community reading club for kids. The volunteers, Francois, Ronald and Charles, are mobbed by nearly 30 children ages 5 to 8.

This crowding of kid fanatics is nothing new or unusual here – this is the typical greeting the volunteers receive twice a week before reading club starts.

In Haiti, where only 1 in 5 children can read by the end of the first grade – and, on average, only 10 to 20 percent read at grade level 1– Save the Children is introducing reading clubs like this to help kids learn the joy of reading at a young age.

The clubs meet weekly and are designed to strengthen participating children’s ability to read in French and their mother tongue, Haitian Creole, and build confidence.

A few moments into this day’s club meeting, the rock star volunteers encourage the kids to sing a short song in Haitian Creole, emphasizing “Reading Club is the place to be.” The words are accompanied by the rapid, high-pitched bongo drums played by Charles.

One by one, the children enter the impromptu dance circle, putting their own stamp on the beat.

In between readings by volunteers and the children, the club regularly sings songs that use alliteration. The repetition of consonants in song helps reinforce the kids’ pronunciation and reading skills.

“This is why the club has been successful,” said Francois of the musical agenda of the club.

Francois, an aspiring poet, recently graduated from the community’s secondary school. Ronaldo and Charles are set to graduate in 2016.

The volunteers – all trained by Save the Children -- were encouraged by the elementary school’s staff to take on the role, and in turn, have been given the chance to become leaders.

“Being a mentor in this program has given me responsibility,” said Ronald, who noted the children’s interest in the club and respect for its volunteers continually keeps him motivated.

When Ronald asks the children who would like to read aloud to the club, nearly 30 hands spring as high as they can go in the air.

Three children are chosen for this round, including Diamantha, 7. She steps up and proudly reads a chapter in a book created by Save the Children and the Ministry of Education, titled “Lekti se lavni” – “Reading is the future.”

She reads a passage about two sisters and a brother who like different things – one sister likes playing ball, the other likes flying kites. The brother likes to hide on his sisters and startle them when they least expect it. “We are happy doing what we enjoy best,” Diamantha says, reading from the book. 

1 In 2008 and 2009, the Ministry of Education (MOE/MENFP), Directorate of Basic Education (DEF), in collaboration with Save the Children, assessed first- to third-grade students’ basic reading skills

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