I have heard, since I first began to teach English here in Peru, that "here in Peru, we don't read." For the most part, it seems to be true. Many of the instructors that I worked with in CIVIME confessed that they do not read anything, except what is absolutely necessary to complete their lesson plan for the week or the day (and their English vocabulary was severely lacking, yet they did nothing to improve it. How you teach a language if you don't speak it is completely beyond me.) People tell me they just don't have time to open a book. I find that appalling. One of the best ways to increase your understanding and vocabulary is to read, especially things that are of interest to you. I've had a hard time getting people here to accept that idea. There is no real emphasis on literacy here, even in Spanish.
So I decided to do an experiment this month. ICPNA, where I work, is launching a reading program for the English courses of Basic 8 through 12. Nothing is done for Basic 1 through Basic 7, perhaps the idea is that they don't have sufficient vocabulary to understand a reading...I'm not sure. But I know that from the time my daughter was born until she was in the fourth grade, I read her bedtime stories. When she was 4, she began to actively participate in the story telling, reading one page or maybe just a paragraph if she was tired, and then I would read another. Through the reading and the funny character voices and the pictures, she learned a lot of vocabulary and grammar. I didn't test her and we only read things that were fun and interesting. It was just for fun. Now she's a voracious reader, quite an articulate speaker and outspoken in her opinions. I can't take any credit for that. She did it on her own. I did what I enjoyed doing, and she did what came naturally to her.
This month I took "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" to work with me and read it and acted it out in my Basic 4 class, on the second Friday of the cycle. I simply read it and used a couple of pictures and different voices to represent the characters or the story. I didn't test them over it, I didn't explain anything, and then I sent the story home with them. I asked them to bring it back the following Friday and we'd read through it again. Just to see what they thought of the idea. Just for fun.
They LOVED the story. In fact, they had all taken the story home and read it several times and learned some words and could participate in the story. When I read "trip-trap, trip-trap went Little Billy Goat Gruff's tiny hooves", all the students were pounding their feet on the floor till LBGG made it across to the other side safely. When the Troll leaped up on the bridge to confront a goat, they all yelled in a deep, cranky voice, "HAAARRRR! Who's that crossing my bridge?!" And when Big Billy Goat Gruff charged the troll and sent him up the river, they cheered for BBGG, just like my little girl did when she was 3 years old.
So, who says that here in Peru, they don't read? Given a fun or interesting piece to read, I think anyone would be willing to read, even if they are in Peru. I think I'll do this again next month, if I have any classes from Basic 1 through 7, and just see what happens. I think if I can appeal to the kid in them, the students might read just for the fun of it. It's only three talking goats and an ugly troll, but maybe from that could spring great things. I think the instructors from the public school system and other institutes are doing the students here a terrible disservice to assume that they will not read, or that they don't want to. To perpetuate an attitude like that is disgusting to me.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff and I are on a literacy crusade in my part of Lima.