Evaluating Enhance Literacy Instruction and Buddy Reading in Coastal Kenya

Evaluating Enhance Literacy Instruction and Buddy Reading in Coastal Kenya

First Author: Margaret (Peggy) Dubeck -- RTI International / Univ. of Virginia
Additional authors/chairs: 
Matthew Jukes, Room to Read; Elizabeth Turner, Duke University
Keywords: Instruction, Drop out, Bilingualism, Spelling, Teacher training
Abstract / Summary: 

Since Kenya abolished school fees in 2003, most Kenyan children enroll in school. However, limited funding led to increased class sizes and shortages of classrooms and materials (Sifuna 2007). These constraints influence quality and many children are not learning to read (Mugo et al., 2011; Piper, 2010).

At the time of our study, the Kenyan education policy suggested that reading methods should meet the learning needs and lesson objective (Ministry of Education, 2006). This could include phonics, look-say, or something else (Commeryas & Inyega, 2007). Our analysis (Dubeck, Jukes, & Okello, 2012) in the region found oral language was prioritized and teachers were ready to teach print knowledge, decoding, and meaning.

We present the design and results of unblinded randomized-control trials in 101 schools in coastal Kenya to improve literacy skills. The first intervention of enhanced literacy instruction included lesson plans to develop foundational literacy skills in Swahili and English for grade 1 and 2 children, professional development, and ongoing teacher support via interactive text messages. The start of the third year, schools were rerandomized to examine if the achievement was sustained and to explore the second intervention, buddy reading.

Multiple validated instruments were used to examine achievement, behavior and affect changes in children and adults. Children in the enhanced literacy intervention showed significantly greater increases in scores for English spelling, Swahili letter reading, and word and passage reading in both languages. Buddy reading did not significantly improve reading skills.
We attribute some of the results to more instruction on decoding, encoding and less on whole word reading. Intervention children spent more time reading and interacting with text. We report on increased teacher knowledge and children’s attitudes. Finally, we discuss children’s reduced school dropout in the intervention schools.