Prarthana’s wish: story of a young teacher

Updated Nov 20, 2017
Written by Hashanthi Jayamaha; Edited by Leanna Cappiello

“Can you tell me what’s in this picture?” Thirteen-year-old Prarthana’s voice is loud and clear, her attention fully focused on the young, wide-eyed students. She follows with a pause, generously leaving space to listen to their answers. Twice a week, Prarthana gathers 10 children, ages 6-12, to help them improve their reading.
Watching Prarthana lead her small group of readers is seeing a well-qualified teacher in action. She takes time with every child, knowing how to captivate each one and help them focus.

To improve children’s reading and literacy skills in Sri Lanka, World Vision partnered with local educational organizations to implement a reading buddy program. Young leaders like Prarthana were selected to participate in training where they refined their teaching skills, preparing to mentor younger children. After three months, Prarthana was coaching a group of 6-12-year-olds into better reading habits.

“We learned many techniques,” says Prarthana. “We encourage them to study the cover of the book and go through the pictures first. Pictures help them know the characters in the story,” she explains.
Some children in Prarthana’s group were complete beginners in their reading journey, like eight-year-old Bhanuka. With patience, generosity and guidance, they worked together, breaking down each one word and syllable at a time. Eventually, Bhanuka’s reading skills improved, along with his grades.

A storyteller’s start

A self-proclaimed book lover, Prarthana has read every book in her primary school library. She is now an avid borrower from the World Vision library, and has recently dipped into reading simple English books, with the help of her teacher.
“My love for stories comes from my grandmother. She tells me a story every night, and sometimes I tell her a story,” she smiles. Prarthana has been living with her grandparents ever since her mother left when she was six months old.
Prarthana believes that for her group to learn how to read, they must learn to love stories. “Even to the children who still can’t read, I read out the story to them and with them, so that they begin to like books.”

Beginning the next chapter

Encouraged by the literacy improvement program, Prarthana has created her own special corner in her home. She continuously decorates it with alphabets, poems, musings and interesting snippets she finds. She has already written a few stories of her own, and loves to share her original work with the younger children in her community.

“I love reading stories of motivation and want to someday write my own life story,” Prarthana says with determination. “I have already decided the title: Prarthana’s Prarthana (‘Wish’). I want to talk about the beauty of my village, the challenges we face, [and] the support I’ve received from my grandparents who brought me up.”
While pursuing her love of reading, Prarthana is also working toward her goal of becoming a teacher. It’s safe to say she’s already well on her way.