KEEP Books Project

May 17, 2012 – Written by Lindsay Martin

KEEP BooksHaitian Creole KEEP books is a pilot program established by the Ohio State University to aid kindergarten and first grade students in their pursuit to learn how to read. The purpose behind the chosen title, "KEEP books", is for the young students to be able to have a sense of possession and ownership over their own books. Children can personalize the books by writing their names on the "This KEEP book belongs to" line, and also by coloring in their own pages. This pilot program was established in the United States, but through the Haiti Empowerment Project, these KEEP books have been translated into the Haitian language of Creole.

The translation of the books into the Haitians' home language of Creole rather than into French is important. Children are currently learning to read in French while they speak Creole in their homes and communities. Our hope is for teachers to implement the Creole KEEP books in their classrooms, so children will learn how to read more easily. After first learning to read in their home language, the children will be able to learn how to read in French more easily.

During the Haiti Empowerment Project spring break 2012 trip, two graduate students and one PhD student spent the week working with Haitian teachers and students in introducing the KEEP books program. The first day of the project consisted of a seminar with teachers and administrators from eight different Haitian schools to introduce the concept of the KEEP books program and to demonstrate the strategies of using them. The program consists of four main instructional strategies. The strategies are arranged in the following manner:

  1. Reading aloud
  2. Shared reading
  3. Guided reading
  4. Independent reading

Reading aloud consists of the teacher introducing the book in general. This introduction includes pointing out the front cover (picture, title, author, etc.), showing the students how to use the book, and telling the children that the books are special because they personally belong to them.

Shared reading is a technique in which the teacher reads the story while the students use their fingers to point to the words as they read along. In this stage, the teacher will point out commonly-used words and discuss the plot of the story that they read together.

Guided reading occurs by the teacher separating the students into small groups in order to gage where individual students are in their reading abilities. Teachers can use various activities in the small groups to enhance this third strategy.

Independent reading is the final step, and it happens only when the students can read the books completely on their own. Upon completion of this step, the students are allowed to keep their books and take them home to share with their families and friends.

The attending OSU students discussed the strategies in a conversational setting with the group of teachers. Since the program is a pilot, issues with the books themselves surfaced—some expected, and some not. Much time was initially spent discussing some translation issues and misunderstandings, along with the issue of some of the books not being applicable to Haitian culture. This feedback from the Haitian teachers themselves is extremely important for the success of the KEEP books program.

Throughout the week, the three Ohio State University students traveled to some of the eight participating schools to demonstrate the KEEP books strategies with the kindergarten and first grade students. They also observed teachers implementing the books and strategies in their classrooms. On the last day, the teachers and OSU students met for one last seminar to discuss some additional activities that the teachers could use while implementing the four instructional strategies. One of these activities was using a fishbowl technique with a small group of students working together to put the pages of the story together or to match the text of the story with the pictures.

Because of the importance of teacher feedback with this program, each school received a laptop in order to communicate with The Ohio State University. Dr. Kranch from North Central State College taught the teachers some basic computer skills, and showed them where to find the KEEP books survey that they were asked to fill out once a month. The Haiti Empowerment Project also asked the teachers to e-mail personal reflections once a week to express their feelings about the program and whether or not it is successful in their classrooms.

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