S is a 45 year+ learner of Pakistani origin.  She has lived in Newham for more than 25 years with her husband and now, adult children.  She speaks English well and is confident in shopping and using medical services etc.  She has not, however, learnt to read and write in English despite a number of attempts.  She is also non-literate in her own language.  As a consequence, she has little to no confidence in these skills and has reported that she is embarrassed by this lack of ability.

S can read the letters of the English alphabet, so we began by writing information that would be important for her in her everyday life such as her name and address and some key personal information.  It was necessary to encourage this to be learnt by heart, rather than getting out an envelope or letter to check.  We continued to work on correct formation of letters, but it was important to establish this essential life skill for practical purposes, as well as fostering independence and of course, increasing her confidence.  S was happy to repeat this exercise until successful as she knew the importance of the skill.

Prior to this S had been attempting to learn reading through phonics, but this had not proved to be a good method for her.  We ordered some children’s’ books which covered frequently used words, as well as rhyming words and phonics.  For half an hour of each lesson, S, along with three other low-literate learners, would read the same book out loud.  I would read first with the learners following word-by-word, then each learner would take a turn in reading.  Generally, S would be the last to read as she was the most self-conscious and also needed the repetition to help to reinforce her sight reading.  S found that recognition of words by sight, repetition of the same words, using context and pictures, rather than trying to decode words phonetically, worked for her.  She was soon able to build a good vocabulary of known words and enthusiastically found ways to continue this learning through using YouTube videos at home.  She also shared the website with the rest of the class, proudly telling them about her progress and her independent learning.  S was incredibly happy that she finally begun reading and was appreciative of the time spent on small group learning, saying that this had really helped her.

S built good relationships with other students and, with this increase in confidence, took a lead role in helping other students who were less able in their speaking and listening skills. She contributed to discussions in class, feeling that the class was a safe place to talk and share experiences of parenting, health issues, advice on living in London and many other subjects. S would like to continue learning in September.