Helping Students Master Literacy to Improve Their Prospects in Life
Literacy is a key that can unlock opportunities to become a skilled and knowledgeable worker, live a better quality of life and break free from the shackles of poverty. Research has shown that the level of literacy of an individual will affect them throughout their life.
Illiteracy has been linked to school drop outs, low self-esteem, teenage pregnancies and difficulty in securing employment. Besides that, it has been associated with low awareness of social rights and the inability to integrate and participate productively in society.
How It Started
Charis Ding, one of the four co-founders of MyReaders, shared that she began her teaching career in a high needs school in Sungai Petani, Kedah from 2013 to 2016. To her surprise and dismay, she found that many students who came from poor families and difficult backgrounds could not read.
“When you’re a teacher, it feels very personal because you see them and work with them every day. You really want them to succeed,” said Charis.
“It was unbelievable that nothing was being done to intervene in the school system, and I couldn’t find anyone that was offering an effective and structured, research-based programme, that was affordable and accessible for local children,” she added.
Determined to help her students, Charis researched and developed a literacy toolkit for them and for other teachers and students who faced the same problem. She believed that everyone has equal opportunities to make informed choices for their lives and literacy is the key.
How the Programme Works
Established as a social enterprise in 2016, MyReaders created content and resources for raising literacy at home and storybooks on themes that build awareness among children.
The MYReaders Literacy Toolkit is structured to help children learn to read step by step from phonics to comprehension. It is suitable for children from 4 to 12 years old or older. The toolkit includes a guidebook, 33 decodable books and 15 comprehension practice storybooks.
Besides the physical literacy toolkit, digital resources are provided for learning through WhatsApp. Moreover, the team will diagnose and track individual students’ progress and decide if they need intervention.
“When a child learns to read in our programmes, a spark is ignited. They know they can access and enjoy a wide range of information, and in the long run, they will be able to steer their life and become empowered to make their own choices,” said Charis.
In addition, MyReaders provides a comprehensive literacy initiative by offer training to members in the ecosystem, including teachers, parents, community partners and volunteers on ways to raise literacy.
“If there is any community with children who are not able to read, we’ll work with community partners so that these children receive resources and effective support by trained volunteers or teachers to be able to learn to read,” explained Charis.
In their school programmes, the MyReaders team works with teachers and empowers student mentors to teach their peers how to read. To date, they have worked with 75 schools, equipped 1,700 student mentors and provided reading remediation for 3,500 students.
Currently, the team is working with 9 schools and supporting one community directly (LitHub) with classes through Whatsapp and delivering physical home literacy packs. They are also working on expanding their community empowerment model.
“This year moving forward, we aim to equip and empower community partners, volunteers, and B40 parents and families to create an environment that is conducive for providing literacy remediation for the children,” shared Charis.
“We’re also grateful to have been offered the SIM grant to scale our efforts to reach 8 more communities and 160 additional households in need this year,” she added.
Besides that, the MyReaders initiative is a part of the Pemangkin Usahawan Sosial Hebat (PUSH) programme, and supported by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). PUSH is a scale-up programme with an ambition to grow social enterprises and increase their social impact through a personalised capacity building and skills development training.
“MaGIC has not only provided us with funding and networking opportunities, but also given very practical knowledge sharing and mentoring opportunities to help us strengthen our business model and scaling strategy,” said Charis.
How You Can Help
As with most social enterprises, MyReaders faces challenges with business sustainability and sustaining community impact.
“It’s been a learning journey for us. But we are continually motivated by the thought of being able to change the trajectory of a student’s life. We hope that every student in Malaysia will be literate one day,” shared Charis.
You can help by buying the MyReaders books. All proceeds will go back to sustaining the school and community programmes for B40 communities.
Besides that, you can contribute funds to sponsor a child or community to receive the remedial programme. Another option is to sponsor or donate gadgets such as laptops and mobile devices, as well as internet data.
“This year, we are planning to expand to 8 more communities. So, we are looking to partner with local organisations and volunteers to start the ball rolling,” said Charis.