Inside the library building of Shree Marsyangdi Lower Secondary School in Nepal, a brightly colored list of names welcomes students as they file in. Hari is one of those students. He scans the list and finds his name with the word "green" beside it. Hari takes off to the other side of the library and looks at each of the book spines thoughtfully before he finally picks one off the shelf. The book is marked with a green sticker.
Around Hari, his friends follow suit. Some scan the library for books marked with red stickers while others clutch books marked with orange stickers.
“This is how we have implemented the book leveling system in this library,” says Manoj Subedi, Sr. Program Associate for Room to Read’s School Library program in Nepal. “It assists the students to find books and other reading materials appropriate for them.”
At Shree Marsyangdi Lower Secondary School, these book levels are color coded by difficulty: Green, Red, Orange, White, Black, and Yellow. As students’ reading skills improve, they move up one difficulty level, and the color written by their name changes accordingly. This leveling system, easily remembered by combining the initial letters of the colors to make GROW BY, can also be used to chart students’ progress throughout the academic year.
Maiya Devi Pokhrel, the school’s assistant librarian, found that one student had made remarkable progress. “When Hari enrolled at the school in 2011, the same year the library was established, his reading level was barely at Green--the starting level--while his classmates were already at the levels Red and Orange,” she says.
Almost every day, Hari would make it a point to visit the library where Maiya would point him in the direction of books for his reading level. “Initially, we helped him find books,” Maiya says. “Later, as he realized how the books were classified, he was able to navigate the library on his own.” Pretty soon, Hari’s regular visits to the library helped him bridge the gap between him and his peers.
As Hari’s reading skills improved, so did his confidence. Now in third grade and reading at the Orange level, Hari actively participates in class. During one activity, every student was asked to read a book aloud to the class and answer questions about the story afterward. Every correct answer was awarded one point. Hari was able to answer five questions correctly and came in second out of his classmates, giving a shy smile after hearing the results.
“Hari’s progress has inspired us a lot,” says Maiya. “We knew that our library would eventually help the students in the long run, but we were pleasantly surprised to see the benefits in just one year.”
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