Applying a Reading Program Based on Cognitive Science in Rural Areas of Malawi: Preliminary Results

Radhika Iyengar, Alia Karim, Florie Chagwira


Reading fluency is a skill foundational to academic performance, and acquiring this skill in early grades is crucial. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, reading levels of students are far below grade level, and Malawi is no exception. Research suggests that students, particularly in consistently spelled languages, acquire automaticity most easily by starting from individual letters, combining them in increasingly larger chunks, and getting plenty of practice in decoding them. Due to working memory capacity limits, students must attain a minimum reading speed in order to understand text. These concepts were tested in a rural district in Malawi. The study helps to explain the components of this science-based “learning package” needed for reading fluency. Volunteers held the classes in communities as an after school program for children from grades 1 to 5. The goal behind this innovative six-month program is students’ recognition of all letters used in Chichewa language and progress in text decoding. This study helps to explain the various components of the learning intervention and the results show that there has been improvement in knowledge of letter sounds. This study uses an already tried and tested cognitive neuroscience model, which was contextualized and implemented in the Malawi setting.

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Journal of Education and Training Studies  ISSN 2324-805X (Print)   ISSN 2324-8068 (Online)

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