In 2011 we received support from the U.S. Department of State for a 21-month program, that enabled us to provide:
- 1,730,000 Dari-Pashto bilingual books
- 736,000 English books
- 115,000 Teacher’s Guides for use with the books
- 65,000 audio versions of the six stories in Cassette or CD
- Provide Teacher Training programs for 365 teachers from 23 NGOs operating throughout Afghanistan
- Create six radio programs that are played by local radio stations each airing one of the stories and encouraging elders to revive this tradition.
An independent organization hired by the US Government evaluated this 21-month program. The overall program was rated highly (3.8 on a 4-point scale). Specifically, they noted that:
- Parents and teachers reported that the children eagerly read the books at least once, and often two or three times, a week.
- Most parents noted that the high quality of the books, the attractive pictures and the culturally relevant stories encourage children to read more and thus helps to improve their reading skills.
- Both parents and teachers, noted that the stories were in both Dari and Pashto, which helps increase understanding in both languages for children who only knew one language before.
- About a third of the parents reported that their children read more at home than previously. They noticed their children reading newspapers, magazines and words on the television.
- A third of the parents also noticed that their children were able to do their own homework.
- The most interesting outcome of this program was the indirect skills transfer from direct beneficiaries to their friends and family members.
In the Afghan context, where children often share what they learn at school with family and neighbors, the Hoopoe Books Project was able to engage children beyond those who received books directly. About a fifth of the parents noticed their children teaching their brothers and sisters after school. Many more noticed their children reading to their neighbors.
When asked to name the most important things that the children had gained from the book distribution, respondents mentioned language skills (in both Dari and Pashto), a sense of expanded opportunities and a better knowledge of the different cultures in Afghanistan, its stories and traditions.
Most teachers were impressed with the vocabulary in the books in both languages and said that the colorful pictures and printing quality made a difference to the children.
The teachers were equally enthusiastic about the trainings. The new teaching tips they received through the training included the following: encouraging students to ask questions, encouraging group discussion, storytelling through pictures, and teaching in a conversational manner. The teachers are putting their new skills into practice as they teach in their respective classes.
Both the guardians of the children and the teachers were highly satisfied with this project. The teachers especially liked the new teaching methods, the color pictures in the books and the stories being in Dari and Pashto. The key suggestion from parents was to distribute more books and ensure they reach all schools.