Children’s literature can spark a lifetime of reading and learning. In Georgia, Chemonics and USAID are using groundbreaking software to fine-tune hundreds of children’s stories and put students on the path to success.
“Everyone was at the starting line, hearts pounding, entirely focused on the snowy slope. As soon as the starting shot was fired, we were off. I couldn’t believe I was ahead of the other skiers, even Gega, my fiercest competitor. But somewhere in the middle of the downward slope, I lost my balance and control of my skis. In the flash of a second, I skied off track, losing one ski as I tumbled. All I could think of as the tremendous pain shot through my leg was that now Gega would beat me.”
— Translated from “Revenge,” by Tata Tchanturia and Lela Kistauri
Many adults have a favorite children’s book. Whether Where the Wild Things Are, The Giving Tree, or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, great stories stick with us from the time we are children because of the impact they have on our imaginations and — in one way or another — our lives.
In the country of Georgia, education reforms have made early-grade literacy a top priority for the government and increased the demand for engaging, grade-appropriate texts (i.e., leveled readers) that inspire and challenge young minds. To increase literacy among Georgian elementary students, Chemonics and USAID have begun writing, translating, leveling, and illustrating hundreds of readers using tools that allow the team to tailor the stories precisely to a particular grade level.
Nancy Parks, chief of party on the USAID-funded Georgia Primary Education (G-PriEd) project, oversees the development of the readers. As an educator, Ms. Parks has taught, written, and conducted training on children’s literature throughout her 40-year career. She understands the significant impact that stories can have on a student’s desire to read when they provide the appropriate amount of support and challenge the student without causing him or her to become frustrated and confused.
“Whether fictional or informational, books give children important things to think about,” said Ms. Parks. “Informational stories take readers on journeys to foreign countries, to historical events, and even to the bottom of the ocean, outer space, or inside a volcano. Fictional texts help to explain the significance of life events and actions. All stories have the ability to stimulate a reader’s imagination and expand his or her awareness of the world while providing a rich source of vocabulary.”
G-PriEd’s stories are written by project staff, Georgian educators and technical specialists, and writers from Chemonics’ home office. Stories accepted for publication undergo a rigorous leveling process based on WordCalc software the project developed to analyze a text’s grade-level appropriateness and inform the editing process.