Serving a Broad Community

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.


If all students in low-income countries left school with elementary reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. In other words, ensuring that those who study reading actually learn it could result in a 12% cut in global poverty.”

Source: Reading: A Way Out of Poverty

Adult Literacy

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.

Resources on Literacy in Afghanistan
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.
Recommended Reading

Key lessons we have learned which guide our programs:

Literacy requires ongoing practice. Cultivating a love of reading helps sustain and grow a culture of literacy. All of our literacy classes are equipped with classroom libraries of local language books for all levels.

Literacy should be “alive.” School-based literacy learning must be bridged to learners’ out-of-school lives. We ensure our literacy students have access to material that is relevant to their realities, such as the life skills curriculum that is integrated with the literacy program.

“I learned more about teaching methods and techniques. Our capacity is built up and our knowledge is increased, thanks to this training.” ~ literacy teacher trainee

Literacy classes can be stepping stones to formal education. Gaining foundational literacy skills facilitates entry into the formal education system, for both women and men. Literacy classes must be purposefully structured to facilitate transition into regular school. The AR! project uses a tool called the Personal Learning Plan to that end.

Literacy is inter-generational. All of the available evidence tells us that literate mothers raise literate daughters. The project includes strategies to explicitly link parental literacy with support to children’s education, such as encouraging women to read to their children.

A room of her own. Libraries can play a critical role expanding opportunities for women to interact with other women outside their families, to exchange ideas and access peer learning, and to find support networks—all critical elements of gaining confidence and independence.

Community buy-in is essential. CW4WAfghan only opens libraries upon invitation from communities, usually after community members have seen or visited one of our projects. This policy has ensured that our projects have not faced any significant security concerns.

Cost-sharing. We ask communities to contribute in-kind to the project to instigate ownership over project outcomes. Usually, the community contributes the space for the library and literacy centre.

Mentorship, training and monitoring. The project places great emphasis on building skills within teachers to undertake reading promotion activities, and our pedagogy is one that is hands-on rather than classroom-focused. One-on-one mentoring, hands-on practice, and exposure visits to libraries positively impact making use of the libraries in teaching.