Tutors learn to help struggling readers

A total of 21 volunteers graduated from a five-day workshop that trained them to assist children who are struggling with reading. The course was presented by Athlone-based non-profit organisation Reading and Writing Solutions.

In celebration of its sixth anniversary, non-profit organisation Reading and Writing Solutions (RWS), hosted a free five-day training workshop at Athlone North Primary School.

Founder of RWS, Jeff Paulse, said the organisation had gone full circle by going back to its roots for its latest training, as its work had started at the school.

The workshop, which was held from Monday March 9 to Friday March 13, had 21 participants, who are all now equipped to assist children who are struggling with reading.

“As a former pupil, teacher and principal of Athlone North Primary School, I decided to give back to our beloved school in a small way by training people to tutor struggling readers. From humble beginnings in 2014 at Athlone North Primary, with seven participating schools, 26 volunteer tutors, and 111 struggling readers to tutor, our organisation has grown to more than 60 participating schools,
1 332 trained volunteers, and more than 5 000 pupils whose literacy competency has improved. Our literacy programme of intervention was successfully implemented at schools stretching from the West Coast, Malmesbury, Stellenbosch, Belhar, Delft, Athlone, Grassy Park, Mitchell’s Plain, Lotus River, Gugulethu, and Nyanga, among others,” Mr Paulse said.

Besides the five-day initial Level One Literacy Training course, the current tutors of RWS are also being upskilled with monthly empowerment sessions, where experts discuss various topics, thanks to its partnerships developed over the years.

The partnerships include Manichand Beharilal Literacy Services (MBLS), the Community Engagement Unit at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and Edulis from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

The training covered includes an eight-module programme on substance-abuse prevention among the youth, a Foetal Alcohol Syndrome course, creative writing, a storytelling workshop, library management, and how to deal with dyslexia.

Said Mr Paulse: “We have no qualification requirements or age restriction to attend our training. Participants just have to be literate, passionate about reading and committed. Our youngest volunteer is 19 years old, and the oldest volunteer is 82 years old.”

One of the trainees, Marlene Jonathan, said she did the training not just to assist her own grandchildren, but for the community as a whole.

“I have a grandchild in Grade 1, and the younger ones will follow soon. So what I have learnt I will definitely use to help them. We also have an outreach programme at our church. We assist children with English and mathematics. We have Grade 4 and Grade 5 children who are really struggling with their reading. Our teachers have big classes, and we as a community must step in. The training is very good. Now that schools are closed, I am able to do some school work with my grandchild,” Ms Jonathan said.

Another trainee, Wafekah Titus, said she had been a volunteer at Sunnyide Primary School for 10 years. She not only did the training to help the children at school and her own children, but now also uses the training she received to help her father.

“I’m not only doing this for my children. My 68-year-old father suffered a stroke. He cannot talk or walk. I would like for him to be able to read and write and talk again. I have implemented what I have learnt, and this has been an amazing journey so far. Doing the training was a big step for me, but I got so excited that I could not wait to get home to do what I have been taught with my children,” Ms Titus said.

Mr Paulse said the growth of the organisation was partly due to the exposure it had had in the Athlone News, hence he now considers the newspaper the organisation’s media partner.

If you would like to partner with RWS or are interested in the training they offer, contact Mr Paulse at 082 216 2460 or email paulsejeff@gmail.com