Malaysian social enterprise on a mission to eradicate illiteracy

This story is part of a series featuring past Star Golden Hearts award winners and cause categories newly introduced to the award, including community empowerment, education, environment and wildlife, social welfare and disaster and crisis relief. Nominations for this year’s award are now open. Tell us about your heroes on www.sgha.com.my before July 31, 2022.

Another SGHA recipient last year was MYReaders, a social enterprise that provides sustainable reading programs and relevant resources to schools and communities to encourage children to read.

After four teachers discovered their students were having trouble mastering basic English, MYReaders was founded in 2014 with a mission to eradicate illiteracy so that one day every child can read.

“As former teachers in disadvantaged secondary schools, we have seen firsthand how intergenerational illiteracy affects a student’s quality of life, with effects ranging from poor nutrition to poor career prospects.

“Ultimately, being able to read gives a person the agency by giving them the tools to make informed decisions, and we want that for the communities we serve,” says Rachael Francis, CEO of MYReaders.

MYReaders empowers children by providing structured and sustainable literacy remedial programs that improve literacy skills. Its two key approaches are to deliver reading programs using its Literacy Hub model and to develop resources such as its Literacy Toolkit.

A pair of students (mentor and mentee) reading together using the MYReaders workbook.At first, its programs were based in the teachers’ respective schools and reached a small group of students.

Today, it offers programs in 75 schools across Malaysia.

“Thanks to the support of program partners, school leaders, community champions, funders, volunteers and parents, our work has reached over 30,000 students across the country and even in some neighboring Asian countries. .

“We certainly learned a lot about the key ingredients of running sustainable reading programs, such as finding the right partners, working closely with key people in communities, and investing in capacity building within local communities to guarantee that the interventions last longer than our involvement in them”, says François.

Since receiving the Star Golden Hearts award, she notes that more communities have heard of their work and their reach has since grown.

“We know so many organizations doing meaningful work on the ground. However, we all rely on word of mouth and credible organizations sharing the work we do.

“As a non-profit organization we don’t have the budget to hire public relations agencies and I think the publicity we have received has been instrumental in increasing the visibility of our work, allowing us to access funders, community partners, and even in recruiting volunteer tutors for our reading programs,” she explains.

During the various lockdowns over the past two years, MYReaders has pivoted to an online delivery model as its in-person reading programs have had to be put on hold.

“For many children, especially those who came from homes with illiterate parents, missing school during the pandemic meant not being able to read their first book or having the chance to be literate.

“By the time school reopened, they would have had to face significant learning loss or even drop out of school, which would have had long-term effects on their future quality of life.

“It was very encouraging to see the students and their volunteer tutors showing up each week to ensure continued learning. of continuous learning and showing the development of reading despite the uncertainties with school closures,” she says.

Even though schools and programs are now getting back on track, MYReaders plans to continue its programs online.

A student learns from home with a volunteer tutor via WhatsApp using MYReaders modules.A student learns from home with a volunteer tutor via WhatsApp using MYReaders modules.“Going online has enabled rural communities to receive support from volunteers across the country and as such the return to an all-physical model will affect this support for learning. We will therefore retain both delivery models, with communities being able to contextualize the solution to suit their needs in the future.

“Over the next few years, we also hope to improve the delivery of our digital solution with online and offline support to reach more learners. We are in the process of finding program partners for this,” she says.

MYReaders recently launched Sentuhan Ilmu: Bridging the Online Learning Gap (BOLD) in partnership with Yayasan PETRONAS to support 2,000 learners impacted by learning loss with internet-enabled devices equipped with learning materials.

Through this program, MYReaders works closely with state education officials, district education officials, school leaders, teachers, and parents to provide students with basic literacy .

Apply here to become a volunteer tutor.

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