Little by Little: Literacy Learning Progress

Written by Lauren Timberlake, Bhutanese ESL Director

A year ago, I wrote about the beginnings of a basic literacy program in the Bhutanese English classes.

The overall literacy rate for Bhutanese refugees is 65%, with young people representing a large portion of those who can read or write in any language. Most of the students in the Bhutanese English classes are over 40, and many have not had more than a few years of primary school if any education at all.

Through one-on-one coaching and tools like writing worksheets, dry erase boards, and early readers, many students are making steady progress towards their goal of reading and writing English. At least two students went from very little English literacy to reading sentences from a textbook this year. It is good to watch them work hard and succeed.

Increasing English skills improves refugees’ ability to find work and function well in America. It’s also one of the best ways for them to feel truly at home in Kansas City.

English is also required to pass the U.S. citizenship exam. Applicants have to answer questions about themselves and about U.S. history and government. There’s a reading section and a writing section made from a word bank of about 200 words.

Little by little, our students are building up their ability to read and write these 200 words. Even students with very low literacy skills have great motivation to pass this exam. They practice writing these words over and over again in class and at home.

Our volunteers tirelessly sit beside them, coaching and cheering, celebrating each small victory. Join us in praying for these students to beat the odds and master enough English to pass their U.S citizenship exams and enjoy life in Kansas City.