HITTING THE BOOKS

By Melinda Rogers, media relations manager, University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law

A team from the University of Utah College of Education traveled halfway across the world this summer to improve educational opportunities for people learning to read in Botswana.

At the Botswana Education Ministry’s request, Kathleen Brown, Megan Bryant and Courtney McBeth spent three weeks in southern African nation to infuse University of Utah Reading Clinic models into government and teacher education programs.

The University of Utah Reading Clinic partnered with the Hinckley Institute as well as Stepping Stones International, a local nongovernmental organization in the country’s capital city of Gaborone, to bring the clinic’s models to educators who work with struggling readers in urban and rural areas. The trip to Botswana and the Utah Reading Clinic initiative in Botswana is supported by a Global Learning Across the Disciplines (GLAD) grant provided by the Office for Global Engagement at the University of Utah. The purpose of the GLAD grants is to assist faculty in infusing global learning into the curriculum and provide opportunities for U students to develop skills and knowledge for global citizenship.

The clinic uses assessment and intervention models based on work started more than 25 years ago at the McGuffey Reading Clinic at the University of Virginia. The intervention models (Early Steps and Next Steps) developed by one of the most respected reading clinicians in the country, Darrell Morris, have been tested empirically — nationally and in Utah. The results of this research suggest that these models are effective in helping at-risk and struggling readers significantly improve their reading performance.

In Botswana, the University of Utah team team trained 25 educators from around the country who work with students ranging in age from 6 to 60. The work was challenging, Brown noted.

“None of these sites has leveled text and many sites have no books at all. It’s tough to teach people to read without books,” Brown said.

The team also met with the Botswana minister of education, Unity Dow, who served as the first female judge in Botswana prior to her current post. The meeting, which included several of Dow’s top advisors, ended with a decision to use clinic instructional models for the country’s imminent primary school curriculum reform, as well as for the country’s out-of-school curriculum, geared at learners who haven’t or can’t attend school, Brown said.

“Simply put, folks up and down the Botswana educational hierarchy are seriously impressed with the kind of student reading outcomes that consistently follow our teacher training,” said Brown. “The ripple effects here at the U and all over Botswana will be felt for years to come.”

McBeth noted the reading clinic has been conducting training and establishing their reading intervention models in Botswana for several years. Two years ago, the Hinckley Institute started sending U students to complete global internships as part of the initiative in Botswana. U students participated in the most recent trip, helping deliver the reading model message around the country.

“We’ve had students from all backgrounds complete substantive internships,” McBeth said. She added her time in Botswana provided a rich learning opportunity.

“I have visited many nonprofits around the world and I was immediately impressed with the sustainable NGO-government-university partnership we have formed in Botswana,” said McBeth.

“After spending time in Botswana, I can firmly advise students that participating in a global internship at Stepping Stones will be life changing for them. Botswana is a middle-income African country with extremely generous, kind people. I will strongly encourage our students to engage with beautiful Botswana.”