YMCA builds reading and writing skills

8 September is International Literacy Day. Literacy is at the core of education. Yet many children, teenagers and even adults face daily difficulties because they lack basic skills in reading, writing and understanding vocabulary and grammar. Many YMCAs worldwide have launched several teaching initiatives to respond to this issue.

Learning how to read and to have fun

For example, the Literacy Mentor Programme developed and run by the Pickens County YMCA in South Carolina, USA. This programme was launched in 2018 to support children and young people, from kindergarten to high school. Kari Jennings, Mentor Director, explains: “Our mentors work with children who are struggling to read.  We currently have 45 literacy mentors serving in 38 schools across two districts.  We have served over 60 children to date.”

COVID-19 severely hit young students with learning difficulties, with education facilities closing down. But Kari is optimistic: “COVID shut down the schools, but not our mentors.  Mentors kept in contact with their charges, and checked in with them through the summer.  Our YMCA formed a community impact team to deliver care packages for the children.  This year may look a little different due to the pandemic, but our mentoring programme is still going strong!  Mentors have stepped up with donations, support and willingness to meet needs.”

Lifetime skills

Melanie Prichard (pictured with her husband) has been a literacy mentor for two years. She supports two little girls. “I have a lot of compassion and I am always looking for ways to use that to help others. I have always enjoyed working with children and being around them. This was a great opportunity for me to meet a child that hopefully I could help in some way.”

A mentor needs patience and creativity to ensure that the activities are fun and useful. “The first couple of times I met with my mentees, we just had fun to build trust and rapport. Now, we do word puzzles, reading games and other activities.  I helped them with vocabulary and sight words. Sometimes I would read to them or they would read to me. We also wrote stories and illustrated them with stickers.”

With this programme, children learn how to get lifetime skills, but mentors also gain a great deal themselves. Melanie confirms: “I have been blessed by knowing and loving these two darling children. My life is much better because I got to know them.”

Webinar in Nigeria

YMCA Lagos in Nigeria is organising a webinar to discuss the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society. It will be held online at 11:00 AM in West Central Africa. Click here for more information about the online event and the registration.