USAID, a United States government agency that helps other countries, has long promoted reading in the early grades. Its programs emphasize adequate professional development and ongoing classroom support for teachers.

“All our early-grade reading projects include explicit teacher training, with an initial training followed by refresher trainings during the year,” says Evelyn Rodriguez-Perez, director of USAID’s Office of Education.

In Kenya, for instance, USAID partnered with the government on a national initiative that includes teaching guides, teacher coaching, and short-term professional development programs. The initiative reaches 1.1 million children a year.

The consequences of doing nothing are great. The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity was formed to bring together world leaders, policy makers, and researchers to lobby for increased investment in education. The commission projects that if nothing changes, 264 million children from low-income countries will be failing to learn basic primary level skills by 2030. Only three in 10 will achieve minimum reading levels.

“Education, learning, and skill development will be increasingly important in the future,” says Justin Van Fleet, commission director and Chief of Staff to the UN Special Envoy for Global Education. “By 2050, the population of Africa will double, and billions of people will move to cities from rural areas as technology and automation replace up to half of today’s jobs.”

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