Teachers serving the underserved

 PETALING JAYA: No child should be left behind, and empowering them has become the core belief of an accredited social enterprise helping to increase English literacy among underserved children in Malaysia.

By providing remedial literacy programmes to schools and communities while working closely with school leaders, teachers, volunteers and students, MYReaders believes that it can empower children to learn English.

It all started in 2014 when four Teach For Malaysia (TFM) teachers discovered that their pupils were having problems grasping basic English.

“We were teachers under the TFM fellowship assigned to secondary schools in Sungai Petani.

“The four of us found that many of our students could not read or even understand basic English.

Tay says their English textbooks are suitable for children of any age.Tay says their English textbooks are suitable for children of any age.

“So we started reading classes for them on Saturdays. We paired them up with older students or volunteers to help them learn reading skills,” co-founder and executive editor Tay Sue Yen said in an interview.

They used books from the United States and United Kingdom as teaching material, but noticed that the students were having problems keeping up.

To rectify this, her team decided to produce their own content by integrating local context.

“We write our own material by designing the contents based on Malaysian context.

“It has local characters and stories so that the students can relate to them,” she said.

Operating as an intervention programme, MYReaders uses two different approaches – a school model and a community model.

“Through the school model, we worked with school teachers where they will choose a number of students who need literacy intervention.

“We would then provide training, resources and also conduct reading diagnostics and assessment to measure the student’s level of literacy,” Tay said.

The community model works by collaborating with volunteers and the module is on a one-to-one basis.

Nationwide, MYReaders has more than 40 volunteers who are ready to dedicate their time to helping empower the children, aged nine to 16.

The number of volunteers has grown and they will be training another 200 volunteers nationwide and also some based overseas.

One-to-one instruction: The MYReaders English literacy programme runs on volunteer power.One-to-one instruction: The MYReaders English literacy programme runs on volunteer power.

Tay said operations were affected by the pandemic, so the team resorted to different ways of reaching out to the students.

“Through the community model, we used WhatsApp as our main platform to reach out to them, especially those who had limited access to the Internet,” she said, adding that no one should be left out.

“With the pandemic becoming a turning point for all of us, we have also been exploring online learning for needy students.

“We started with providing the kids with refurbished laptops donated by the public,” she said.

Moving forward, Tay said they would love to reach out to more students and communities across the country by providing more programmes.

To ensure the continuity of its efforts, MYReaders relies on corporate sponsorship aside from selling literacy kit books.

The social enterprise is also accredited by the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry and the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creative Centre to serve the needy students for free and sustain its programmes.

Tay said the success of the programmes under MYReaders was due to the dedicated teachers.

“We worked with various types of schools, including those in the rural areas and small towns in eastern Sabah, such as Semporna.

“The district officers and the teachers were really supportive. They would spend their time and energy helping their students,” she said.

According to the MYReaders website, it has impacted more than 31,647 students nationwide since 2015.

Its programmes have involved 92 parents, 777 teachers and 780 volunteers to reach out to underserved communities since its inception.

To ensure sustainability of the programmes, MYReaders aims to continue promoting its books to parents whose children need a literacy intervention programme.

It also aspires to scale up its Literacy Hubs to impact more communities in wider geographical locations.

For its noble efforts, MYReaders is recognised as one of the 10 winners of Star Golden Hearts Award 2021, an annual award that celebrates Malaysian unsung heroes.

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