Adults learn to read differently from how children learn to read. This is because to gain automaticity, fluency and comprehension, an adult needs to be able to read at a speed of at least 45 words per minute—an extremely challenging benchmark to reach in adulthood. An adult learning to read in his or her own language is akin to a literate person trying to learn the script of another language, such as an English speaker trying to learn Cyrillic. Perceptual adjustment to recognizing and retaining the unfamiliar letters is far more arduous learning for adults, compared to children, whose brains are wired for exposure to new language—even multiple languages and scripts.
CW4WAfghan's approach to adult literacy education is based on a perceptual learning method that optimizes reading learning in adults, developed by Dr. Helen Abadzi, a cognitive psychologist who uses evidence from neuroscience to understand how adults learn reading. The method has been tested in multiple languages and script combinations in different countries, and was tested for the first time in Afghanistan by CW4WAfghan in 2019, under the guidance of Dr. Abadzi. Besides the way the letters are presented, the method emphasizes repeated practice to gain automaticity. Teachers must be trained in guiding students in such practice in literacy classrooms. Testing has shown consistently much better outcomes than with other methods.
CW4WAfghan has developed a successful model of adult literacy education called Afghanistan Reads! Here, we share some useful resources that reflect how we approach literacy education in Afghanistan.
Abadzi, H. (2008). Efficient Learning for the Poor: New Insights into Literacy Acquisition for Children. International Review of Education.
Abadzi, H. (2006). Efficient Learning for the Poor: Insights from the Frontier of Cognitive Neuroscience. World Bank.
Abadzi, H. (2005). Adult Illiteracy, Brain Architecture, and Empowerment of the Poor. Adult Education and Development.
Royer, J.M., Abadzi, H. & Kinda, J. (2004). The Impact of Phonological-Awareness and Rapid-Reading Training on the Reading Skills of Adolescent and Adult Neoliterates. International Review of Education.
Teale, William H. (2008). Reading Education Internationally Published in Literacy Daily, contains many recommendations that reflect the way we work in our Afghanistan Reads! adult literacy program. The article was translated by CW4WAfghan staff member Abdul Rahim Parwani, for the 8am newspaper in Farsi (2019). Read it in Farsi here.