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In Zambia, Room to Read Literacy Materials Inspire a Mother to Action

January 25, 2013

Literacy isn’t just about reading words on a page. The ability to read or write—even at a basic level—unlocks a world of knowledge and understanding completely inaccessible without those skills. Annie Ngombo knows this well, having learned to read and write fairly recently, through an adult education series held by the University of Zambia.

Ms. Ngombo lives in a shanty town in the Kafue distruct with her two young sons, both of whom attend primary school nearby. The school is one of the first in Zambia to receive support from Room to Read’s Reading and Writing Instruction program, but before a few months ago, Ms. Ngombo hadn’t thought much about it.

One day, she came home to overhear her 2nd grade son, Kaimbo, reading out loud to himself from a newspaper. Slowly and clearly, he was digesting the text word-by-word. Surprised by his advanced skills, Ms. Ngombo asked Kaimbo to read another section from the paper, and was pleasantly surprised when he accomplished the task with ease and near-perfect accuracy.

Kaimbo’s remarkable progress made Ms. Ngombo wank to know more about her son’s schooling, so she decided to meet with his teacher. At school, she learned that Kaimbo’s teacher had received training and materials from Room to Read, including ongoing weekly support from a literacy facilitator. The new Cinyanja-language lessons had been paying off, and many of the students were making great progress.

Having witnessed the impact of our Reading and Writing Instruction program with her own eyes, Ms. Ngombo decided to visit the local Room to Read office to learn more. There, she saw a copy of the workbooks that had been provided to students, which gave her an idea. As one of her neighborhood’s few literate women, she would adapt the materials that helped turn her son into such a confident reader into lessons for adults.

Ms. Ngombo’s adult literacy class started small, with just one 34-year-old pupil who had never learned to read or write. After a short time, the woman, who was only three quarters of the way through her first workbook, was able to read simple texts with ease.

Encouraged by this early success, Ms. Ngombo expanded her course to include ten other women in her community. Using a copy of Room to Read’s three early reader workbooks in Cinyanja, she develops regular lessons for the women, who all look forward to the day they can read independently and send letters to family. Just like Kaimbo and his classmates, Ms. Ngombo’s students are already making great progress.

Learn more about our work in Zambia.

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