Literacy

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...]

Author: Ellen Errington (2016)

The experience of going to church is largely an oral one in any culture. This is perfectly acceptable and appropriate, but there are ways that the experience of participating in church activities can be complementary to developing literacy skills and literate practice for daily life.

In this paper, Ellen Errington applies the concept of scaffolding to the task of teaching people from oral cultures the skills of reading and writing. By supporting the learner through these means, literate practice may seem less foreign and new avenues of communication may be opened up. Scaffolding techniques are really just good teaching practices, but for learners from oral cultures, literacy teachers need to use them more often and more intentionally to build success.

The church, though primarily an oral setting, can also be a setting for supporting literate practice, including Bible ‘literacy,’ for all church members. The inclusion of scaffolding techniques for oral literacy learners in the church setting can bring excitement and deeper understanding to all who participate.  [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...]

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: Mary E Saurman

"Learning takes place when the activity is (1) receptor-oriented, (2) context-oriented, (3) repetitive, and (4) participatory… Indigenous music embraces all four of these learning components. Not only are the words in the people’s spoken language, but the music is also in their traditional music system."

Research shows that music is an effective tool for memorisation. Mary Saurman describes what is needed for effective instruction and shows how music meets many of these requirements: it is receptor-orientated, uses repetition, is participatory, and has intrinsic motivation because it is a part of people’s culture. She offers examples of how music has enhanced literacy programs across the world. Finally she outlines several steps to incorporating music into a literacy program: consider music’s function in the community; ask questions of when it’s used; what it’s used for and who uses it; then consider which song categories and styles are appropriate for literacy; and finally begin to use it!  [more...]

The Most Common Avenue to Increased Scripture Engagement
Author: T. Wayne Dye
Published by: International Journal of Frontier Missions (26.3 Fall 2009)

The choice of medium can make a difference, and better artistic quality enhances any communication. However, the most important quality is how relevant the message seems to be to the lives of its hearers. If a hearer (or reader or viewer) thinks the message can make an important difference in his life, he will make an effort to listen, even if the quality is poor. Conversely, if he thinks it says nothing personally relevant, he will ignore even the best presented message. This principle of personal relevance is critical to communication.

Wayne Dye expands upon his third condition for Scripture Engagement:

Accessible forms: People are able to read the Scriptures or hear them from others or by listening to electronic media.

The article describes different ways of making the Scriptures more accessible: storying, literacy, local performing and visual arts, audio recordings, cell phones and video.  [more...]

Author: Lyndal Webb

There is more to reading the words on the page than meets the eye. In order for the Bible to be read with comprehension and understanding, resulting in an appropriate response to God’s communication, the reader must be equipped with the skills to analyse, evaluate and assimilate the information.

Lyndal Webb argues that it is not enough to train people in basic reading skills. In order for them to be able to better engage with the Scripture they read, they need to move along the 'Literacy Line', developing higher literacy skills.

This article contains an appendix with suggestions on ways of training people to develop further.  [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: Richard Margetts

Help! Hardly anyone can read the translated Scriptures. What can we do?

This is a one-page poster or course handout. It reminds us that if a lack of literacy skills is cited as a barrier to Scripture use, then the solution can be found in both literacy and oral strategies. Good Scripture use promotion strategies will often need to move in both of these directions.

So, if people say "The New Testament is not being used because people can't read it!", the response is not only "OK, we'd better do some literacy so they can read it". It should also be: "OK, we need to explore ways of them getting to hear it as well."  [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...]