So how did we go about making our literacy primers (learn-to-read books) and readers (reading practice books after each level)? One letter at a time. We started by picking 3 letters, and then we had to write at least 3 sentences only using those letters. After that, we’d add one letter at time, writing more and more sentences with more and more new words per story as the primers progressed. We’d often remark, “Oh, if we only had an ‘e’! That would make our stories so much better.” Then, after we’d have the “e,” we’d look forward to an “m” or an “a” or something. And finally, by the time we got to the end, we could write whatever we wanted with any letters or accents or anything.
When we’d have a new letter that needed new stories to go with it (to practice reading the new letter just taught), we’d often each write a story for it, and then we’d see which were acceptable and we’d use them. (When we got really good, near the end, we’d have less people writing stories for each letter.) For one letter, I wrote a story about how our eggs just hatched and we had a bunch of chicks, which my daughter loved ; she swept the broken egg shells up, discarding the little pieces and using the big pieces to decorate the house. I knew that it was rather “out there” culture-wise for them as I wrote it, but it used the new letter so much that I tried it anyway. And yes, it was rejected. They said that I had written it well, but that it was too much “white person culture.” So instead, we used story from one of the local guys. Let me translate it here for you:
In our village, it’s really hard these days to go out to the bush to go number 2. If you say that you want to go “to the bush” (aka go number 2), you get up and take the road into the bush. Once you get out a ways, you look around to make sure that no one is coming. If no one is coming, you squat and relieve yourself.
Before, where you’d have to go to go number 2 wasn’t so far away. No one went that far away back then.
Now, you have to go quite a ways out from the village. But no one likes to go for such a long walk when they have to relieve themselves. That’s why people now have squatty potties in their courtyards. No one goes out to the bush to go number 2 anymore.
And yeah. For the cultural sensitives of most of you reading this, that story is much more awkward than mine about chicks and decorating your house with chick eggs! But for them, this was totally appropriate. So appropriate, in fact, that they didn’t mind adding a picture (which I will not post here for you), and even having me edit the picture to make it look more like it went with the story than it had originally, since it was originally a picture of diarrhea. Yes, culture is different here. And that’s ok in a lot of cases! These are their learn-to-read books, and we want them to feel like they are theirs. So they have a beautiful story about going number 2. Of course.