As English teachers at a new school, we were unsure as to how to address this. In term one we tried a compulsory remedial approach. We made after school remedial compulsory for those identified as needing it. We held afternoon sessions that were poorly attended and no amount of punishment seemed to bring the students to them. We found that by creating an environment where students were forced to be there, meant that students who were there were mainly there because they feared punishment - not ideal for learning!
In the second term we had a change of tactic. The first thing to go was the term "remedial". Instead, we called it Afternoon Tea. We then invited these same students by sitting down and chatting with them. We told them that we had noticed that they seemed to be struggling with reading and that we wanted to help. We invited them to tea on a Monday afternoon after school and showed them what we would be reading. We had identified 10 students to start. Come Monday, there were 17 wanting to come into the newly created library. Amazing! Unfortunately we had to turn a few away due to space.
This was the start of our fabulous tea club. From there, we only grew. More students come in weekly, begging to be a part of this "exclusive club" and volunteers from an organization called Teachers for Africa join us so that we can split up into smaller groups.
The formula for each session is simple. We start by getting a cup of tea/ coffee and sitting down with a book. Each student in the group (+/- 3 students) has the same book. We take it in turns to read page by page. Discussing the story and vocabulary as we go. In the last 20 minutes of the session, we do some kind of activity together. Sometimes it's a comprehension activity. Sometimes it's just a fun activity related to the book - like learning to draw Phineas and Ferb, two characters from the book we are currently reading. Sometimes we have biscuits/ cupcakes. Sometimes we don't. Either way, we've found this doesn't really matter to the students. They're enjoying reading! During the week, their homework is to read ahead a chapter or two and report back on it the following week. We want to create a habit of reading at home with a book the student is interested in.
We all know that reading is essential to our students' success. Below is an infographic produced by Nal'ibali that highlights the state of children's literacy in South Africa.