Read to Learn earns significant award from USAID

Author: Ricky Austin

Major gains in Haitian students’ literacy skills through the Read to Learn initiative, led by Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE)—in partnership with Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD)—have earned Notre Dame a significant role as part of a $33,379,887 million U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project in Haiti.


FHI 360 is the primary grantee for the 5-year Ann Ale reading and writing program funded by USAID.  The University’s successful implementation of Read to Learn, an innovative early-childhood literacy approach, prompted FHI 360 to provide ACE and NDIGD with more than $700,000 in new support over the next four years. The funding will allow ACE and NDIGD to provide teacher training and coaching, curriculum development, and monitoring and evaluations services for the Ann Ale program.  

“We are eager to build upon what we have learned about implementing successful literacy programs, and in doing so, help to make system-wide impact in Haiti,” said Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C., the Hackett Family Director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives. “The gift of reading changes children’s lives.  We believe it is a moral imperative to bring this gift to every Haitian child.”

In 2014, ACE and NDIGD, partnered with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Haitian Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education (CEEC) to implement Read to Learn in 50 Haitian Catholic schools, with $1 million in funding from the Porticus Foundation. One year into the program, evaluations of Read to Learn students show that participants in the program improved significantly in pre-reading and reading skill development. In the 2014-2015 school year, participating students experienced 163 percent faster growth in their recognition of letter sounds and 98 percent faster growth in oral reading fluency as compared to students who did not participate in the program.

The success of the Read to Learn approach, which is being implemented in other developing countries as well, springs from its design. It provides detailed, structured lesson plans and materials in Haitian Creole, the native language of Haiti. It then gradually introduces French reading materials and skills as the program progresses. Traditionally, the primary language of instruction in Haiti has been French, the exclusive use of which has impeded the development of literacy skills of Haitian students.

For Read to Learn, ACE is providing innovations in teacher coaching and training, curriculum adaptations, as well as support to school principals to improve the effectiveness of the program. NDIGD will be providing the monitoring and evaluation services for this project. See the method and its success illustrated in this video.

USAID’s recognition of ACE and NDIGD’s success in the “Read to Learn” project bodes well for future engagement in publicly funded development projects around the world, according to Scott Appleby, Marilyn Keough Dean of Notre Dame's new Keough School of Global Affairs. NDIGD is an integral part of the Keough School, which will prepare students for effective and ethical leadership in the global public and private sectors.

This publication was prepared under a Subcontract funded by Family Health International under Cooperative Agreement/Contract No. AID-OAA-1-14-00054 funded by USAID. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views, analysis, or policies of FHI 360 or USAID, nor does any mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by FHI 360 or USAID.