Early Grade Reading

Redearth Education support government teachers in making sure no child gets left behind in becoming literate.

In addition to Redearth Education's long-standing training programme on methods to make teaching more interactive, the NGO is currently working with Ugandan teachers on an Early Reading Programme.

This is a phonics-based programme, written, adjusted and adapted to the local, multilingual Ugandan context. Training focuses on the teaching of pre-reading and early reading skills in the local language, and the transferring of these skills to the teaching of reading in English. There has been significant positive impact due to this approach with, for example, many top class Redearth nursery children reading fluently in their mother tongue.

About the programme

Learning to read is one of the core skills that children must acquire in order to progress through school and achieve lifelong learning.

The Redearth Early Reading Project was piloted by Redearth Education in 2013 with Comic Relief funding, and followed up with a 3 year project.

USAID research had shown that between 60-80% of children in their second year of school in Uganda still could not read a single word. There was an urgent need for the training and support of current teachers in how to teach young children reading skills, as well as for school interventions to help children with low literacy skills “catch up”.

Masindi schools

after 3 years in the programme

3% illiteracy rate in local language

0% illiteracy rate in English

Phonics-based learning.

The Redearth approach to teaching young children to read is built upon phonics-based methodologies. This involves teaching children to hear and identify the sound of each letter, rather than simply learn letter names or words.

By learning letter sounds, children are able to better understand how each letter sounds when combined in different ways - to make different syllables or words.

Watch Redearth Education Field Officer Chris practice phonics recognition with pupils at Kitonozi Primary School. Using an interactive "bottle-line," teachers guide children in how to blend different sounds together to eventually form entire words.

Multi-lingual context

Uganda is a multi-lingual country, with around forty languages spoken. These are local ‘area languages,’ such as Runyoro spoken in Masindi. Many schools are multi lingual with a variety of mother tongues being spoken by the pupils. These include refugee children from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for example. Sometimes children speak a language not spoken by their teacher.

Teaching reading using a phonics approach, in the local "area language", enables prctitioners to navigate these challenges. It allows P1 and P2 learners to become fluent local language users.

They are then able to effectively transition and adapt their skills to English in P3, P4 and beyond, increasing their chances of continuing into secondary education.


Data taken from most recent independent evaluation of the Redearth reading programme (2017).

Teaching Quality

In terms of quality of teaching, there has been a clear shift in methodology with teachers using a phonics-based approach to reading and using more teaching aids and group work.

This is resulting in more engaged learners and, according to teachers, it benefits the weaker learners.

Learning in Masindi

For the Masindi District schools in the pilot project (i.e. in the programme for 3 years), for children with baseline and endline data, the illiteracy rate at endline was a stunning 3% in local language and 0% (100% literate) in English.

For schools who have been in the project for 2 years, the illiteracy rate had fallen to 16% in English and 39% in local language.

Learning in Buliisa

It was found that at the end of one year: in project schools in Buliisa District, pupils could identify 15 sounds in 1 minute compared to 1.8 in control schools.

Illiteracy was reduced by 39% in relation to the reading of English compared with a 17% reduction in control schools i.e. over twice as much.

Illiteracy was reduced by 36% in relation to the teaching of reading in local language compared with an 18% reduction in control schools. i.e. twice as much