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By Umm Zakariya – Reading and Creative Writing Coach at Fajr Academy, Karachi
Reading is one of the greatest sources of knowledge and pleasure known to mankind. Avid readers will tell you nothing can replace a good book. Reading is a taught skill and though we all learn to read when we go through our educational system, we mainly treat it as a form of acquiring knowledge. We rarely find a school which inculcates in children the passion to read for pleasure.
Fajr Academy is one of the rare schools that consider reading as top priority in their educational programme – for knowledgeand for pleasure. The newly-opened school is the brainchild of Mr. Asim Ismail, an educationist entrepreneur who has launched an extensive reading programme where children from the nursery level are exposed to a wide variety of books and literature. Two out of seven periods in a single day are dedicated to reading, where two to three reading teachers take a class of maximum twelve children. The reading teachers are also supervised by an experienced co-coordinator who keeps updating them with new ideas to make the reading lessons more effective. Depending on the reading level of the child, children are either led through a guided reading programme or are encouraged to read independently, with the teacher ensuring that the material being read is effectively comprehended. At all times, reading is made to be a fun activity, with children waiting impatiently to get their hands on the books so they can discover new places, people and ideas.
Each class at the school also houses an in-class library with age-appropriate books. Precocious readers in the class are allowed by the reading teachers to choose books from the main library as well to encourage them to read higher-level books. The school has invested heavily into the reading programme by purchasing books from all leading bookstores in the city. Experienced teachers have carefully selected books for the school in order to give children reading material covering a wide range of topics. The team of teachers also has a trained teacher for assessing children with learning difficulties, more specifically, dyslexia. These students are then instructed through multi-sensory modes to help them read effectively.
“The results of the reading programme have been beyond our wildest expectations”, says a teacher at Fajr Academy. The children of Prep 2 have already finished readers in the first term of the school year which are usually finished at the end of the school year in other schools. Some children of Prep-1 have become fluent readers as well. The children of Nursery, though young, have also become little book lovers, pouring over the pictures of the books while the teachers give words to what they see.
When asked to comment on the reading programme at his school, Mr. Asim Ismail simply states: “Reading is to the mind what food is for the body.” This small quote from him sums up the importance of the reading programme at Fajr Academy. He believes once the passion for reading is inculcated in children, they will excel at academics. This is because the best form of gaining knowledge is through the printed word. If children become fluent readers at an early age and enjoy picking up a good book to read, the scope of what they can learn would be beyond our wildest imagination. As they say, “today a reader, tomorrow a leader!”