Concern Worldwide and Family Literacy in Lebanon
The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement since the Second World War. 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Concern Worldwide is a non-governmental, international, humanitarian organization dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. Concern implements holistic Education programmes across Africa, Asia and the Middle East supporting primary school-aged children in the hardest to reach areas to access quality education and improve their wellbeing. Concern works with extreme poor populations in rural and urban development contexts as well as with IDPs, refugees and host communities within humanitarian, emergency and protracted crises all over the world. One particular focus of Concern’s work is to provide refugee children with opportunities to build their literacy skills, as many have missed out on schooling due to conflict, crisis and natural disasters. Concern provides literacy support through school, community and family initiatives.
Research shows that caregiver involvement in children’s learning positively affects performance in school. Regardless of income or social status, parents and caregivers can create a home learning environment that nurtures academic achievement (National Literacy Trust). Reading from an early age is fundamental preparation to a student's later progress through the formal education process, yet little attention has been given to ensuring that all children become successful readers. Those who go to school and learn in a language of instruction that is different from their mother tongue face additional challenges.
Concern realizes the importance of community involvement and the critical role that parents play in their children’s learning and development, particularly in helping children to develop their literacy skills. There is considerable evidence of a relationship between reading regularly to a child and that child’s later reading achievement (National Research Council, 1998).
Although the Lebanese government has made efforts to broaden access to the public education system, barriers to education remain high and include associated costs of going to school, such as learning materials, books and transport. Other issues include safety in schools and language challenges; the curriculum in school is in French and Arabic, while children from Syria learn in Arabic. In Lebanon, Concern supports children in early childhood education centres, homework support and family literary initiatives.
One important focus of Concern’s work in Lebanon is to help parents create supportive learning environments at home, including family literacy, so that children develop a love for reading. Reading at home also reinforces positive relationships within the family and builds a bond between parents and children. Various factors prevent parents from reading to their children, these include; limited literacy skills of parents, lack of time and awareness of the importance of reading with children and no availability to access books. Telling stories is equally important because they support children’s development and creativity.
Concern has developed a Home Learning curriculum that includes modules on childhood development and the importance of reading and telling stories to children. The training provides parents with techniques that can help them to support their children at home by building their confidence and capacity, regardless of their literacy levels.
This initiative is in the early stages and has been piloted in communities in Akkar, Lebanon. Concern plans to scale it up in other countries where they work.
Concern Worldwide is an international humanitarian agency that implements a diversity of programmes that target the most vulnerable communities across 25 countries, in sectors such as education, health and nutrition and livelihoods.