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Literacy primers in two languages of Mozambique

(January 2009) Two language groups in Mozambique have produced sets of literacy primers during a workshop 5–16 January conducted in Nampula by SIL Africa Area. A combined 1.5 million people speak the Cuwabo and Makhuwa-Meetto languages. These primers will enable many adults to read, opening new opportunities for them in diverse domains—physical, emotional and spiritual.

Seven mother-tongue speakers of each language wrote the stories needed for the primers. They followed a graded progression that began with stories using as few letters as possible. Subsequent primer lessons contained stories that repeated previously taught words a certain number of times as well as gradually adding additional letters of the alphabet. The goal was to make the stories interesting and imaginative in order to make the reader want to continue the reading lessons.

Software developed by SIL helped make their job easier. The Bantu Literacy Tool was designed specifically to help Bantu communities build primers. It helps the users determine the teaching order of consonants, find basic words for stories, check stories for untaught words and perform other key tasks in producing reading primers.

SIL consultants led the participants in generating the primers that will be used for teaching learners in their local communities how to read in their mother tongue. A critical component of a language-based development project is literacy. When previously oral language communities design writing systems, they need to develop a course for teaching people how to read their newly written languages. As one component of a literacy project, reading primers are developed for teachers to use when conducting literacy classes.

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