"I am always grateful for the difference our work has brought to many but never more so than when I see the long arm of our reach. Children you and I will never meet now have a better chance in the world."
-Nanci Bell Co-founder of Lindamood-Bell and Founder of Gander Publishing
Thirty years ago, Nanci Bell and Pat Lindamood acted on their vision to help each individual learn to his or her potential. Flash forward to today, and those efforts are reaching children on a global level. This month, children in Uganda were introduced to the Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing® Program (LiPS®) for Reading, Spelling, and Speech, courtesy of special education teacher Susan Koepplinger.
Koepplinger, an educator at Waitsfield Elementary School in Vermont, reached out to Gander Publishing after seeing our New Year's pledge to get more kids reading in 2016. She had recently been trained in the LiPS Program, was using it with several students, and was loving it. Koepplinger thought LiPS—which develops phonemic awareness, word reading, and spelling—would be the perfect intervention for Ugandan students living at the Malayaka House(MH). Many of the children at MH have significant delays in their reading ability, largely due to a lack of consistent, systematic instruction, as well as the complicating factor that they are learning to read in their second language.
In January, Gander received an email from Koepplinger. "I am writing to see if you might be interested in having an effect on the education of students in Africa," she wrote. "Malayaka House is an orphan home that is committed to providing homes for 40 children, as well as supporting them in their needs to become educated. I wondered if you might be interested in donating a LiPS kit that I could bring with me and train their two tutors in using the program with these students!" Gander was honored to be asked, and happily provided the materials she requested.
As she busily prepared for her trip, Koepplinger learned that things change quickly in Uganda. Two weeks before her departure date, she learned that MH was unable to locate consistent tutors for the children. This has been a problem, historically, so it was decided to offer a training to the local schools instead. They were quickly scheduled at both Entebbe Junior, where the children of MH attend, and Komo, a nearby school for children with autism. This helped MH hold true to its mission of "providing the most vulnerable orphaned and abandoned Ugandan children with a safe and loving home, education, and vocational training so they may grow into self-reliant citizens whose lives are full of opportunity and promise." In light of this new development, Gander provided additional materials so Koepplinger could now train teachers at two different schools.
Teachers at Entebbe Junior school were excited to incorporate LiPS for students in all grades, for instruction and intervention.
Koepplinger was able to spend a fair bit of time at Entebbe Junior, where she trained their kindergarten and first grade teachers as well as teachers in the upper grades. They are now using the LiPS Program with their kindergarten classes utilizing a whole-group approach, and are using the program in older grades as an intervention. The teachers can email Koepplinger with questions, and her co-worker Sara will return in June to see how things are going at the school. The training at the Komo School was for students with autism, and early reports indicate that they have started the program with this most vulnerable population.
In the future, Koepplinger hopes to become trained in Lindamood-Bell's Visualizing and Verbalizing® (V/V®) and Seeing Stars® programs to further broaden the scope of intervention she can offer struggling readers in the United States and Africa.
As she reflected on her time in Uganda, Koepplinger said, "My trip was really wonderful! Malayaka House is such an amazing place." She was struck by an interaction she had one afternoon as she was preparing for her afternoon training:
"One of the 'older girls,' now 23 years old, came in and was curious as to what I was doing. She loved looking at the mouth pictures (in the LiPS kit), and I played around with her making some of the sounds and finding the pictures. She really enjoyed it! She does not read or write, as she came to MH when she was 15, with one baby in tow and another on the way. She's since had her third. She shared with me how she couldn't read but was sending her older children to school. As we were leaving, she shared with my co-worker, Sara, that she is very interested in learning to read and write. Sara will be setting this up for her when she returns this summer."
Gander hopes to continue playing its part in helping educators like Susan and Sara, who are seeking to make a difference in the lives of children all over the world.