Liberia: What parents can do outside of school to help children learn to read

| February 15, 2021

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Flourish Sheriff finishes her chores and joins her three-year-old son, who is sitting in his chair waiting for his mom to read with him. Mrs. Sherriff lives in Gbarnga city in Liberia. She and her son sit facing a table full of books, a newspaper, teaching materials, a ruler, and pens. This is the time for Mrs. Sheriff to motivate her child to work hard outside of school by reading together with him. She says that reading with her child out of school has a huge positive impact. Philip Nyanbei Mulbah has been a teacher for eight years and he agrees. He says that parents’ efforts mean a lot to their children’s academic and moral development.

It’s around five o’clock in the afternoon and Flourish Sheriff has just finished washing dishes. She grabs a chair in the sitting room and dashes out to the veranda to join her three-year-old son. He’s sitting on his chair waiting for his mom so that they can read and do other school activities together.

They sit facing a table full of school items such as books, a newspaper, teaching materials, ruler, and pens. This is the time that Mrs. Sheriff motivates her child to work hard outside of school by reading together with him. She says, “While school is a major focus of my child’s life, the reality is that in a school calendar year, he spends more limited time at school than here at home.”

Mrs. Sheriff lives in Gbarnga city in Liberia. She says that reading together with her child out of school will have a huge impact on her child’s academic success.

She continues: “I show my child that I value reading together with him. If I want to ensure that my child is reading at home, I make sure we read together. This includes reading different materials like books, magazines, and newspapers and any other material that can help my child to learn.”

She says that most of the things students learn depend on immense efforts from their parents. She adds: “I therefore make sure that I put my child on the right path of education through reading with him and encouraging him to do his homework. This is good also for his societal growth and development.”

Mrs. Sheriff says that children of all ages need daily reading practice to help them build strong literacy skills to go further with their education.

Philip Nyanbei Mulbah has been a teacher for eight years. He says that parents should always get involved in their children’s education by reading with them.

Mr. Mulbah says: “Parents’ financial and moral contributions to every activity of their children mean a lot to the academic and moral growth of their children. Children feel very proud when they see that their parents are very much involved in their educational activities such as reading.”

According to Mr. Mulbah, children’s academic success relies heavily on home study—and if parents are not involved in teaching their children at home, or if they don’t find someone to help them, it strongly hinders their academic performance.

He explains, “Children are psychologically and academically affected if their parents are not involved with their schools’ activities on or off campus.”

Annie Kolleh is another parent in Gbarnga city who reads with her two children when they are out of school. She says that allowing children the freedom to independently choose their activities is a great way to keep them motivated and on task.

Mrs. Kolleh explains: “For example, by reading together, you can set the expectation that your child will read for 15 to 30 minutes each night, but you should let them decide which book or article they want to read.”

Mrs. Sheriff understands that it might be tempting to reward her child with money or gifts for earning good grades in reading or language arts. But, she says, this motivation is good only for short-term gains and may actually make the child less motivated to read in the long term.

She believes that it’s every parent’s responsibility to help children learn and read when they are outside of school. She explains: “I advise and encourage parents who have not cultivated the idea of reading with their children to do so now because this practice will greatly impact their children’s success in education.”

This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Distance Learning in Crisis is implemented in partnership with CODE, TALLE, and WE-CARE.