Pictured: Yusufjon and Oisha read together.
Yusufjon Nazarov was scared to read aloud for his peers because he read very slowly. The third grader in Kulob, Tajikistan isn’t alone. Many children in the country read below the national standard, often due to a lack of high-quality, age-appropriate reading materials and a lack of engaging teaching practices customized to each students’ reading level. Without interesting books for children or opportunities to read outside of the formal classroom environment, reading can intimidate youth, so they read less often, which contributes to poor outcomes in reading comprehension and fluency.
Yet Yusufjon and many other children have conquered their fears and improved their literacy through USAID’s Read with Me (RWM) project. Established with the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES), the project aims to provide students with Tajik and Russian age-appropriate reading materials, train teachers and education officials, modernize reading instructions, reinforce collaboration between teachers and parents, and hold after-school reading activities to help children in Grades 1 through 4 improve their reading skills.
One such activity is reading summer camps, where Yusufjon found support to overcome his fear. The RWM team designed and implemented these summer camps so children could improve reading comprehension skills, as measured by assessments the project conducted in collaboration with local officials.
These assessments resulted in a camp strategy through which well-trained counselors introduced dynamic pedagogies that inspired students between the school years. Parents, in partnership with educators, then sustained that interest by reading with their children at home, and students retained reading skills through active games and dialogue that increased their understanding, memorization, and vocabulary.