Hobart and William Smith Colleges Professor of Education Charlie Temple has been volunteering for 20 years with organizations that work for education in some of the world’s poorest countries including Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa.
Currently, Temple is volunteering for CODE-Canada, a Canadian literacy organization, as the team leader for the REACH for Reading Project in Sierra Leone. With the help of a Sierra Leonean teachers’ group called TALLE, REACH will provide updated training to 12,000 first, second and third grade teachers, with funding from the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF. The Canadian government’s aid agency Global Affairs Canada is negotiating with CODE to extend the project through grade six, adding an emphasis on girls’ empowerment for all six grades.
Temple’s current tasks are to head up the development of unit plans and training materials for teachers, and to edit and produce three volumes of reading books for a total of 600,000 children.
“English is the language of instruction in the schools, but most students’ families don’t speak it and teachers rarely speak English at home,” says Temple. “We’re giving a lot of attention to basic English language instruction in our unit plans and methods guides. The books for children will have lavish illustrations, especially at the earliest levels, to make children curious and get them talking. Then we will add more and more text, still supported by the pictures, so children can make sense of them.”
For the illustrations, Temple is hosting Chase Walker in his home in Geneva over the first week in February. “I’m setting Chase up in a guest bedroom with a drawing table, art supplies and a big pot of coffee,” Temple jokes. “He says he’s ready to rock and roll.” Walker is a self-taught fine artist, photographer, story teller, graphic designer and an illustrator from Libera who now resides in Philadelphia.
For the texts, Temple is calling on writers from Sierra Leone and Liberia who have worked on CODE projects for many years. William Smith alumna Caitlin Caron ’08, MAT’10, who is currently working on her Ph.D. at Syracuse University, is collecting relevant texts from open-source projects such as the African Storybook Project. Writing Colleagues Program Fellow Emily Perkins of the HWS Writing and Rhetoric Department will work with the team to develop teaching unit plans, and HWS Assistant Professor of Education Audrey Roberson will help with the assessment of the project and serve as a trainer in Sierra Leone.
In the summer of 2017, Roberson served as a trainer and evaluation team member for a predecessor of the REACH project, also supported by World Bank. Jameson served as a trainer in Sierra Leone for that project.
“That effort was a huge success,” says Temple. “It won the gratitude of people at the World Bank, who had found themselves in March of 2017 with nobody to train 5,000 teachers that summer. Since then, CODE and TALLE have become known as the folks who can do the impossible, very well, by yesterday.”
For the current project, three original fully illustrated reading books, around 400 pages in all, are scheduled to be drafted by late February, formatted by a Ghanaian publisher in March, printed by a firm in Abu Dhabi in April, and shipped to arrive in Sierra Leone by June.