[Press Release] Lexiles, literacy and a love of reading: the future starts now
7 September, 2018
Tomorrow, September 8th, is International Literacy Day, a day intended to focus awareness on the state of (il)literacy in the world and to support initiatives intended to empower communities and bring about change and improvement in worldwide literacy development and promotion.
In recognition of the occasion and to mark the beginning of its pilot programme in South Africa, LightSail Education hosted over 50 educators, civil society organisations, volunteer reading helpers and public and private sector stakeholders at a breakfast discussion titled “Lexiles®, Literacy and a Love of Reading”. Through its pilot programme, LightSail seeks to identify effective, measurable and collaborative approaches to increasing access to literacy resources and skills development across the country.
Saul Abrahams (International Director of LightSail Education) was joined by a powerful panel of women in education, Dee Cawcutt (Principal of Wynberg Girls’ Junior School, Chair of help2read, National DoE Award winner for Racial Integration 2004); Renee Lighton (Educational consultant, author, speaker, qualified life coach and Facilitator) and Dorothy Dyer (Former high school English teacher and founder of FunDza Literacy Trust) and introduced the two types of Lexile® measures that reside at the heart of the LightSail application. Both give an objective numeric representation – one of an individual’s reading ability and one of a text’s readability (or difficulty). As a tool, LightSail measures and matches the Lexile® level of a learner to the Lexile® level of texts made available to those learners within a “just right” range to build confidence whilst also providing the ability to stretch and develop skills and vocabulary further.
The importance of this matching was emphasised by Renee who stressed that “when we meet learners where they are at, with our head, heart and hands, we ignite conversations, that support, delight and invite more of “I see I can” and therefore “I can”, no matter what our circumstances may be. In this way we develop a love of reading that is sustained and lifelong”.
An essential component of this process has to be providing young people with what they want to read, not just what they have to read. This strategy has been crucial to FunDza’s work and was highlighted by Dorothy in discussion as she pointed out that “in order to get young people reading, there needs to be exciting and relevant reading material that reflects their lives. Children need to see that books can be about people like them, that their lives and worlds matter. LightSail’s flexibility and ability to absorb and publish local content provides a powerful opportunity to engage learners in their context”.
Crucially perhaps, the LightSail tool provides an opportunity for children to grow their digital skills, enabling them to increase their technological literacy, building employability skills in a digital world and benefit from access to other relevant applications and technology tools in the process.
The importance of this mix of skills development was highlighted by Dee Cawcutt who noted that, in the emerging future “we need to prepare students for jobs and technologies that don’t yet exist … in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet. Our future survival, as a nation and a global community, depends on our ability to communicate, to extract and analyse information and to collaborate and engage in the digital world. As educators, parents, companies and government, we therefore have a greater responsibility than ever before, to ensure that all South Africans can read and write. I am very excited to see the start of this programme both at Wynberg Girls Junior School where I am principal, and within the programmes of help2read where I am Chair of the board” said Dee Cawcutt.
As Danica Le Fleur, Head of Operations at 9Miles, a LightSail pilot project partner in collaboration with help2read, reiterated this saying that: “LightSail is benefiting our learners in a number of ways, assisting them to read for meaning, use technology that many are not familiar with, improve their writing through the short response questions and think for themselves when using the annotation option. The fact that they are able to access a personalised library providing books that are “just right” for their level is a sure fire way to build confidence and with confidence comes a love of reading”.
“Our pilot project looks to be responsive to the uniquely South African context and will allow us to further contextualise our platform to the needs of readers in South Africa. We have already loaded relevant mother tongue reading materials to the platform and are committed to increasing this at all grade levels. We believe that this together with the ability to absorb, publish and edit the complexity of a text to accommodate individual ability within a mixed ability classroom provides an effective tool for learners to engage on meaningfully the same text. These features combine to present LightSail as a powerful meta-platform with global relevance to literacy promotion and digital skills development” said Saul Abrahams in closing.
If schools are interested in participating in the pilot project or accessing LightSail’s platform for their classrooms, please email Saul@LightSailEd.com for further information and a demonstration of the platform’s key features.
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