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Underneath the Reading Tree

In 2013, my daughter Lindsey and I returned to tutor students in reading at Uyoba School in Mfuwe Village in eastern Zambia. We spent a month there in July which is cooler than it is in Sacramento.

We worked with small groups of twenty or so students under a tree because the classrooms were jammed full. Every twenty minutes, we got a new group of “mangoes”, “avocados”, “apples”, or “bananas” to work with depending on their skill level.  We worked on phonics, puzzles, sentences, and the Happy Readers, part of a new learning system provided by Africa Hope Fund.

Lindsey also helped a volunteer from North Vietnam, Sue Pearson test student’s reading progress

while I entertained the other students trying to explain what a pirate was so they could learn to pronounce their “r’s” by saying “arghh.” They tend to say “arra” for “r.”

Lindsey was sitting on one side of a tree with Sue, and all she could hear from my side where I was using chalk to write on a discarded door leaned up against my side of the tree was pirate talk. All I heard from Lindsey’s side of the tree was, “Mom!” It didn’t go very well because I had to explain an ocean and pirate ship first. 

Drawing a picture of a man with a big mustache, funny hat, and an eye patch didn’t help much either. We went back to practicing sounds like “grrr.” When we left, the headmistress, Aggie said “You filled a gap and you leave a hole in our hearts.”

Written By: Pat Cole


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