Literacy

Author: Leah Walter

One of the first questions translation teams ask when determining program strategy is: Are there people who are literate or semi-literate in the national language? If so, how can we get them reading in their own language?

In Columbia, where Spanish is spoken widely, very few Desano people had made the transition to reading in their own mother tongue. Leah Walter helped to develop a transition primer to be distributed along with the New Testament. The article includes a step-by-step description of how she and the team developed this primer to teach themselves how to read their mother tongue. It was suitable for both literates and semi-literates. Sample pages from the primers are included. They include lots of pictures, which aid the reader.  [more...]

Taking a Hard Second Look
Author: Herbert Klem
Published by: International Journal of Frontier Missions (12.2 Apr-Jun 1995)

It is possible that the literacy based approach as applied in non-reading communities reaches best those who most want to escape from the traditional culture into the modern world of wealth and technology, but it may not be successful in reaching the majority of the people, or the poor in many regions.

After over 150 years of literacy based mission strategy, we will still miss half the world if we continue believing that people must read in order to receive the Word.

In this article, Herbert Klem surveys mission strategy, especially that which has been literacy-based. He outlines the problems with relying on such literacy-dependent methods in reaching much of the world's population.  [more...]

Author: Margaret Hill

Traveling to different countries in Africa, I’ve noticed one important link between Scripture use and literacy, and that is how literacy can harm Scripture use! It is clear that it is right and proper to have an emphasis on teaching people to read, but the big question is: Where do you start?

In this brief article, Margaret Hill describes the importance of transition literacy and how it affects whether the translated Scriptures will be used in the local church or not. The author suggests different kinds of effective literacy booklets that can be produced, featuring local medicinal herbs, proverbs, hymns and others.  [more...]

Results of a study, surveying nearly 5,500 people in Burkina Faso and Cameroon
Authors: Béatrice Konfe-Tiendrebeogo (ANTBA, Burkina Faso), Julious Ngum Kimbung (CABTAL, Cameroon), Martin Engeler (OneBook, Canada), 2014

This study was undertaken by a small team of Africans and Canadians to measure the impacts of translated Scriptures, literacy and Scripture engagement programs on marginalized minority language communities, to discern whether certain hypotheses are true and to better understand which program practices yielded the post positive impacts.

Here are the five hypotheses which were tested:

  1. The most effective projects in transforming people groups are led and implemented by nationals.
  2. The most effective projects in transforming people groups had strong literacy programs to ensure mother-tongue literacy of a substantial part of the population.
  3. Effective literacy programs bring positive community transformation in the areas of social, economic and spiritual realms.
  4. Good access to and use of the mother-tongue Scriptures will foster qualitative and quantitative church growth.
  5. Nationals led the most transformational (effective) and fastest (efficient) programs in transforming communities.

Nine language communities in Burkina Faso and nine in Cameroon were selected, each of which had either a concluded or an ongoing Bible translation and literacy project.

The report, published in 2014, concludes that translation of the Scriptures is not enough, but by working hand-in-hand with functional, transitional and basic literacy, lasting impacts are achieved.  [more...]

Literacy and the Great Commandments
Author: Don Edwards
Published by: William Carey Library (2010)

"Social activity is our responsibility in the discipling process. Once a person has responded to the love of Christ, we are to help them grow up in their faith. Setting them free from the chains of sin and yet not removing them from the chains of illiteracy and thus oppression is not loving my neighbor."

In 'Is Hearing Enough?', Don Edwards presents research carried out in India, where a significant percentage of new church leaders and believers cannot read. He argues the case for literacy to play an important role in discipleship efforts as part of what it means to love our neighbor.

In the light of the growing focus on Orality, the author challenges us not to lose sight of the vital role that literacy plays in grounding believers in their faith.  [more...]

Author: Margaret Hill

Today we are in a very different position from when Bible agencies and churches first started running literacy classes. There are alternatives! We now have many methods of producing, distributing and copying oral Scriptures of many different types. In almost every case where a literacy programme is going nowhere, people will accept oral Scriptures and listen to them.

Several years ago, Margaret Hill wrote an article provocatively titled "How Literacy can Harm Scripture Use". Her thesis was that too many literacy programmes were starting with classes for beginners rather than focusing on transition literacy for the leaders and change agents in society. Such an approach, she argued, is harmful to Scripture engagement.

This article is a follow-up, emphasising the same message and going further to take into account the observation that "increasingly here in Africa we are seeing that many language groups are very interested in using their languages orally, but very uninterested in reading or writing in them".

Rather than "hitting your head against a wall" with struggling literacy programmes, the author calls for a refocusing of strategies and reminds us that audio Scriptures often work very well in such contexts.

Download the article as a PDF document.  [more...]

Injecting a good dose of the Bible into your literacy programme
Author: Richard Margetts

Literacy for Life is all about injecting a good dose of the Bible into a traditional literacy programme... You will need the beginner’s literacy primer. This is the book that is used to teach the letters of the alphabet and the reading of simple phrases in the language. Alongside this, you will need a Scripture Guide book. This is the book put together especially for the Literacy for Life course.

A teachers' guide to running a Literacy for Life course. This is a church-based literacy programme that makes use of existing materials and adds a Scripture guide.

Two types of programme are described: a beginners' course and an advanced course. The advanced course is a form of small-group Bible study.  [more...]

A church-based literacy program for Ghana
Author: Pat Herbert

The pastor will find that not only can his congregation read the Scriptures in their own language, but they will show a greater depth of understanding God’s Word and show growth in their Christian lives.

Community literacy projects have been running in Ghana since the 1970s. Pastors, however, were not using the mother-tongue Scriptures in their churches. To address this problem, Pat Herbert describes how they developed Scripture Guides to accompany literacy primers. The program is now known as Literacy for Life (LFL). The article includes a sample of a Scripture Guide lesson, and discusses various issues, including training of teachers to use the materials, making it a church-based program, and funding for the primers and Scripture Guides. It compares the normal literacy programs to the LFL program and describes the impact the program has had.  [more...]

Transition Literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa
Author: Barbara Trudell

Making readers literate, that is what transition literacy is all about. L1–L2 transition literacy introduces the isolated minority language speaker to a world of information and ideas outside his own culture; L2–L1 literacy restores to the L2 reader his cultural and linguistic heritage. Both have a significant role to play in literacy programs among the minority language groups of the world.

Trudell outlines two types of transition literacy: from L1 (mother tongue) to L2 (language of wider communication) and vice versa. She shows how the strategies differ for each, describing situations in which one or the other might be used and the benefits of such programs. She then focuses on L2–L1 transition literacy, describing four different kinds of literacy materials: alphabet charts, self-teaching primers, transition primers for class use, and spelling/writing guides. She also gives examples of where these materials are being used.  [more...]