Monday, February 9, 2009

I should probably talk about the work I am doing. I spend most of my time in the library. Every class comes into the library a couple of times a week and each child reads aloud individually. Half of the class reads to me and half reads to Josephine, after seven or eight pages we stop and record the page for next time. The books are numbered based on skill level starting from 1, 1A, 1B, 2, etc. all the way up to 15. In any class there usually is a wide range of reading levels, one kid might be reading book 2A while another kid is on book 12. Most of the children are comfortable reading aloud and they seem to read at a level comparable to American children. Still there are some children especially those that transferred from other schools that are pretty far behind. However, Nigerian children have very good memories (for example at morning assembly there are two bible readings and even the youngest children recall the verse number long after I have forgotten it) which help them memorize and recite the stories even if they cannot read it, thus making it hard to judge their progress. Still I enjoy working in the library. I am slowly getting to know the kids and I am learning some of their names.

If nothing else I find it fascinating to read the books. I remember some of the books I read in first and second grade and they were nothing like the books here. One of the books is about a big new lorry that fell in the river and the town people have to pull it out. Another is about a naughty boy who refused to help his mother care for his baby brother who came down with Malaria. There is also a book was about Martha who is sure she sees a monster and so she sends the chief and all of the villagers out to kill it but in the end the "monster" is just a goat. Another story is about a family who has a new baby and kills a goat for the celebration feast. These colorful stories seem to highlight the differences between our cultures.

Today I started working individually with one student, Chinedu. I was first introduced to Chinedu in the headmistress's office. He looked scared and I could barely hear a word he said. We explained to him that he wasn't in trouble and I was going to work with him on reading and writing. We told him to come back with his notebook and pencil but ten minutes later there was no sign of Chinedu. So I went to his classroom and asked him to follow me. We barely made it out of the classroom before the poor kid started crying and shaking head to toe. I asked him what was wrong and told him that he was not in trouble but he didn't seem to understand. Luckily we came across Sr. Theresa who saw how distressed he was and explained in Igbo what was happening. After that he calmed down but it was obvious that he still was leery of me as we began to work. Chinedu is probably eight or nine but he cannot even spell his own name. During class he copies down everything written on the chalkboard but he doesn't comprehend what any of it means. I just started working with him so I can't tell if he has a learning disability or if he simply never learned to read. During our time together I helped him spell his name and a few simple words like cat or boy and after that we read a book together. Chinedu then went running around the room finding more books for us to read. I would read aloud and he would turn the pages. I don't know how I could possibly teach this child to read but it nearly broke my heart that Chinedu was so eager to please and how happy he was to have some positive individual attention.

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