Professor of Education Charles Temple recently made four trips to Tajikistan to help improve reading outcomes for students in grades one through four. Through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Temple worked on the “Tajikistan Read With Me” program to disseminate native language reading materials, coordinate training and integrate assessments for educators to monitor reading progress.
“I feel like [Tajikistan Read With Me] is HWS applied. When I get to go out into the world, taking critical thinking with me, I am taking these Colleges and everything we value like equity and social justice. And then I get to bring those stories back here,” says Temple, who teaches a “Comparative Education” class within the HWS Education Department and connects students to his experiences abroad.
More than 500,000 students in Tajikistan are expected to be targeted by strategies to develop the reading curriculum, coach teachers, assist school management and help form parent-teacher associations and community training programs. USAID is working with Chemonics International Inc. and School-to-School International on implementing these strategies over the next four years.
As part of the reading project, USAID plans to increase the number of students speaking and reading Tajik, the indigenous language that decreased in prominence throughout Russian rule and was recently restored as the official language. USAID’s project, expected to run until September 2021, has the strong support of the national government and schools.
The 120 children’s books developed as part of the project incorporate positive social messaging for children, especially the rights of girls and essential personal health education. To help connect educational reform with local community causes, the curriculum teaches students about irrigation efficiency and reform in the country. Irrigation systems service more than 80 percent of land in the country. In just one year, teams of six collaborated as writers, illustrators and designers on each book.
“A major aim of the project, in addition to preserving and promoting the Tajik language, is to help local talent create readable books that children will enjoy. Teachers are worried about literacy rates among children in Tajikistan, and one of the best ways to help children become readers is to give them colorful books they will want to read,” says Temple, who returned to Dushanbe over Thanksgiving break to lead another workshop for writers, illustrators and book designers.
Temple, who joined the HWS faculty in 1982, is a storyteller, folk musician and children’s book author. Through support from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, he has worked to promote critical thinking in schools in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, and many countries in Africa. He is the co-founder of the Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking Project and the 2016 recipient of the John Readie & Florence B. Kinghorn Global Fellowship.