Joynur’s Joy

Reading to lead

Joynur is very enthusiastic about learning.

Every day when she wakes up, Joynur washes her face and then starts her day by reading a book. As she reads, her eyes sparkle with joy.

“When I was in class 1, I wanted to read better," says the 10-year-old girl, who lives in southern Bangladesh. "Since I had very few books, I could not read well. My mother helps me with my reading.”

Joynur’s mother, Shahena, never had the chance to continue her education after the 5th grade. Shahena’s father was very poor, and he couldn’t afford it.

But, says Shahena, “I studied a little, so I understand the value of education."

Like many women from poor families in Bangladesh, Shahena married early—at age 14. “Since we got married, my husband has been working as a day laborer. He goes to work at 7 in the morning, and it is dusk by the time he returns.” Shahena hardly gets to see him. She wants a better life for her children.

Her desire to learn burned bright.

Joynur did not have books to read outside of her textbooks when she first started primary school two years ago, so it was difficult for her to develop her reading skills.

“When Joynur first started attending school, she was very quiet. But, she was very attentive in the classroom,” says Nandakhali Primary School teacher Hasina.

Since USAID set up a reading corner in the classroom in 2014, Joynur and her classmates have more engaging stories to read.

“I read a book where three sisters got into trouble because they were not able to return home by nightfall. At the end of the story, it turned out to be a dream. I enjoyed the book a lot," says Joynur.

Children are given free time for reading in Nandakhali school.

"Book Captains” for each class help make sure everyone gets to read different books, and that the books are taken care of properly.

Didar is the Book Captain for Joynur’s class. "I love to read poems and stories. They made me Book Captain because I can read," he says.

Bangladesh’s low literacy rate indicates the primary education system doesn’t meet the needs of the country.

There are few students in Bangladesh who can read at their grade level. Those who can read, cannot comprehend. “As a result, they are losing interest in their studies,” says Hasina.

Making reading fun

Training primary school teachers to use proven, successful teaching methods is helping improve reading with comprehension.

In 2016, Hasina was one of more than 3,000 teachers trained throughout Bangladesh.

Community Reading Camps provide an open space for children to learn outside of school.

“At the reading camp we draw pictures, sing songs, and read and tell stories. We all read books together,” says Joynur.

Here, children have fun reading and learning, and are taught through creative hands-on activities.

Joynur admires her teacher very much.

"When I grow up, I want to become a teacher,” she says proudly. “I want to teach others in the same way our teachers are teaching us.”

Joynur has started down that path by tutoring her siblings. “When I’m busy with my cooking, Joynur helps her younger brother and sister with their studies,” says Joynur’s mother.

It has also boosted her skills in math. “My father doesn’t know how to read and write. I do the accounts for my father and read bills for him,” adds Joynur.

Today’s girls are tomorrow’s mothers. Hasina has high hopes for her students and envisions a better future for her country. “It is especially important for women to be educated because today’s girls are tomorrow’s mothers,” she says. “Only an educated mother can create a well-educated nation.”

About this Story

Bangladesh has one of the largest primary education systems in the world, with more than 19 million children.

However, only 25 percent of fifth-grade students can read with comprehension at their grade level. Schools emphasize memorization over comprehension, making it difficult for children to learn to read well or understand what they are reading. And, without being able to read with comprehension, students don’t do well in other subjects.

USAID is helping primary school children like Joynur by training teachers to emphasize reading with

comprehension, and installing reading corners in classrooms to provide access to books. Community reading camps also provide children with reading materials and educational games aligned with their textbooks.

In 2016 alone, USAID helped improve the reading skills of nearly 389,000 Bangladeshi children.

Investing in education is vital to build more stable, democratic societies. By educating children in Bangladesh, we are preparing them to be tomorrow’s leaders.

Photos and video by Morgana Wingard, Josh Estey and Ahsan Khan for USAID