Strengthening reading and writing skills.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Foundation for the Application and Teaching of Sciences (FUNDAEC) implemented an innovative literacy project in the department of Risaralda. The objective of the project was to improve reading comprehension levels of rural primary school students and promote gender equity between girls and boys. Activities were organized to promote a culture of appreciation for reading by children and their families. The project was carried out in collaboration with the Risaralda Secretary of Education, and helped overcome the widespread belief that children living in rural Colombia do not like to read and are not interested in school. After participating in this effort, more than 300 students and their parents significantly increased their enthusiasm for reading.


The project was inspired by FUNDAEC's over 30 years of experience with the Tutorial Learning System (SAT) program in Risaralda. SAT is an alternative secondary education program designed by FUNDAEC and officially recognized and adopted by the Colombian Ministry of Education. SAT provides youth with high-quality education that is both academically rigorous and relevant to the rural context. The work carried out during the last three decades in Risaralda with the SAT program helped develop the scientific and moral capacity young people need to become promoters of the development of their own communities. Since SAT students are vital human resources in their communities, the project also trains them as facilitators of a reading enrichment program for elementary school children. The educational content of this program enables both SAT students and their younger peers to strengthen their language skills. SAT facilitators serve as role models for younger children, help them make a smooth transition to secondary education programs, and help them develop the analytical skills and moral framework necessary to make good decisions.


Investigation by the Colombian Ministry of Education suggests that most of the children who attend schools in Risaralda, as is also the case in many rural areas of the country, do not have adequate access to children's literature or libraries. For that reason, the program collected books for libraries in more than 25 rural schools to increase students’ access to children's literature. The content of the selected books contributes to the moral development of children and cultivates their identity as promoters of community well-being. The books emphasize values such as gender equality, solidarity, cooperation, and an appreciation for rural life.


Another key feature of the project is that it helps develop teachers’ capacity to promote reading comprehension to foster the development of a student’s character. Teachers receive training and regular accompaniment that helps them cultivate enthusiasm and appreciation for reading among their students. Such training enables educators to integrate the books in the collection into the academic curriculum. The creation of collaborative investigation communities among teachers encourages them to become investigators and generate knowledge about approaches to reading comprehension. In addition, the project prepares teachers to deliver a parents’ education program to foster an appreciation for reading within the family. Through this project, a culture of reading was fostered within the family unit. Parents and their children read library books together and discuss their implications and applications on a personal, family, and community level.


The Secretary of Education expressed great satisfaction with the achievements of this project, and is now replicating aspects of the experience in other municipalities of the department. FUNDAEC is currently exploring how the learning obtained in this project could be applied in other regions of the country where works in order to increase reading comprehension among a greater number of children, and foster values such as solidarity and gender equity.