Lest we forget their first teachers: Family-based ICT interventions for struggling readers

Ms Hellen Inyega  | Presentation (PDF)

University of Nairobi


The prevalence of people with reading disabilities in Kenya is now an undeniable fact, according to Uwezo in 2012. However early screening, diagnosis and intervention measures for dyslexics remain relatively low. One explanation is that school teachers are often overburdened with more pressing curricula demands (such as syllabus completion) to spare time for such students. This might be complicated further by the fact that dyslexia is a disability that is not obvious etiologically. Many schools may also be ill-equipped to intervene for reading difficulties. Consequently, struggling readers continue to lag behind in their academic pursuits, with some falling through the cracks and dropping out of school altogether. 

According to a 2013 study by Cheugn and Slavin, students who cannot read well in the early grades tend to be at higher risk of performing poorly in later grades and other subjects, have emotional and behavioral problems and the tendency to drop out of school. Internationally, concerted efforts have been made over the past 20 years among practitioners, researchers and policy-makers to develop policy and identify effective interventions to help struggling readers succeed in reading. According to several reports ranging from 2003 to 2013, among these approaches, educational technology applications have become one of the most popular.


Mobile Learning Week is proof of the central role technology plays — or should play — in improving the quality of education at all levels of an education system. In line with international trends this paper, informed by personality and socio-cultural theoretical perspectives and expanding on the notion of who a teacher is, shares findings of an on-going research that is targeting struggling readers’ first (or home) teachers (parents and/or significant others) to provide literacy intervention to children in second grade at risk of academic failure. 

Specifically, the paper discusses the use of mobile telephony and video-cases as a viable panacea for struggling readers within family settings with home teachers and promising alternative to over-stretched school teachers. In addition, the paper highlights the essential ingredients of successful family-based literacy intervention. These include experiential relationship-building with the child around reading material; dialogue and consensus building about the value of reading with the child; effective communication and formative feedback on the child’s reading progress and consequential reading behavior change driven by intrinsic motivation and reinforced further extrinsically through rewards and recognition by the home teachers. 

Implications for better mental health and positive future outcomes and empowerment for struggling readers are made. Let us not forget the child’s first teachers! A reading parent most likely begets a reading offspring.

I hope other participants will share best practices on tapping into and working with families to promote literacy and generally raise education quality.



Ms Hellen Inyega is language and literacy education Senior lecturer in the Department of Educational Communication and Technology at the University of Nairobi. She holds a PhD in Reading Education from the University of Georgia, United States. 

Since her PhD graduation in May 2006, Ms Inyega has actively and consistently evaluated and provided technical support to literacy projects across Africa. Specifically, she has advised on project design, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation and writing of technical and narrative reports using qualitative and quantitative research approaches and maintaining high ethical standards in research. She has guided implementing organizations on relevance, efficiency, sustainability, effectiveness and impact measures of their projects and on communications advocacy strategies for sensitization and awareness creation. She has designed and developed early grade reading instructional materials and assessments including Grades 1 and 2 Kiswahili instructional materials and Early Grade Reading Assessments (EGRA) being used by Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International and Aga Khan Foundation in Kenya. Ms Inyega is a dedicated teacher educator, coach and mentor and prefers being on the education work-floor with teachers to conduct action research aimed at catalysing synergies to solve the often challenging but not insurmountable teacher problems.

Ms Inyega has published in peer-review journals and won several literacy awards and grants. She is a member of local and international literacy organizations and President of Association of Reading of Kenya. Ms Inyega remains committed to providing direction on reading education development and upholding of high ethical standards in research in Africa.



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