Yusufjon reads with Oisha

Summer of Reading in Tajikistan .

In Tajikistan, summer camps help children improve their reading skills through friendship, spirited competition, and involving parents.

Pictured: Yusufjon and Oisha read together.

Yusufjon Nazarov was scared to read aloud for his peers because he read very slowly. The third grader in Kulob, Tajikistan isn’t alone. Many children in the country read below the national standard, often due to a lack of high-quality, age-appropriate reading materials and a lack of engaging teaching practices customized to each students’ reading level. Without interesting books for children or opportunities to read outside of the formal classroom environment, reading can intimidate youth, so they read less often, which contributes to poor outcomes in reading comprehension and fluency.

Yet Yusufjon and many other children have conquered their fears and improved their literacy through USAID’s Read with Me (RWM) project. Established with the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES), the project aims to provide students with Tajik and Russian age-appropriate reading materials, train teachers and education officials, modernize reading instructions, reinforce collaboration between teachers and parents, and hold after-school reading activities to help children in Grades 1 through 4 improve their reading skills.

One such activity is reading summer camps, where Yusufjon found support to overcome his fear. The RWM team designed and implemented these summer camps so children could improve reading comprehension skills, as measured by assessments the project conducted in collaboration with local officials.

These assessments resulted in a camp strategy through which well-trained counselors introduced dynamic pedagogies that inspired students between the school years. Parents, in partnership with educators, then sustained that interest by reading with their children at home, and students retained reading skills through active games and dialogue that increased their understanding, memorization, and vocabulary.

"Now I am no longer afraid to read out loud."

Yusufjon Nazarov, third grader

Summer Camps and a Training Infrastructure

RWM created school-based summer camps for several reasons. First, camps are informal settings that help children who struggle with reading learn in a more relaxed and fun environment. Most children experience trouble reading because they believe it is something they must do rather than want to do, which decreases enthusiasm about literacy.

Second, camps encourage continual reading during summer vacation. This is important because students who read outside of school, in this case during the summer, enter the next grade more prepared than students who didn’t read outside of school.

The RWM project and MoES collaborated in preparing primary grade teachers to serve as summer camp counselors. RWM trained 25 national trainers, who in turn trained the 234 summer camp counselors from 115 schools. The trainers represented five project regions: Kulob, Bokhtar, Khujand, Khorugh, and Dushanbe. RWM sent five mentors to training facilities, providing support and briefings for feedback on key concepts delivery.

Counselors at RWM summer camps are trained to facilitate a space in which children can independently seek reading through recreational and innovative activities and learn from one another without classroom pressure. To do so, RWM has developed a training module in Tajik, and 115 schools across 47 districts in Tajikistan used these modules during 26 training sessions. As a result of these sessions, counselors promote summer camp cultures that encouraged student initiative so that children have a stake in their learning.

Yusufjon took this initiative when he met fellow third-grader Oisha Ismoilova during an interactive reading session at camp. “I saw how Oisha was reading, so I made the first step and asked her to help me,” Yusufjon said. “We started to read together. We get the books from the school library and read them from the first until the last page.”

It was not long before Yusufjon’s reading skills improved with the support of his newfound friendship with Oisha — made possible by the RWM summer camp.

“Now I’m not afraid to read out loud,” Yusufjon said.

Summer camps activities also include students reenacting book plots through role-playing, illustrating scenes, the use of Venn diagrams for critical thinking skills, visual aids, and reading competitions designed to encourage children to challenge one another to improve their skills.

In these school-based summer camps, children combine reading and leisure activities.

Third-grader Muslima Nazrimadova felt the motivating spark of these reading competitions. Initially, she was not passionate about reading, but when she met third-grader Omina Sharipova at an RWM summer camp, they quickly developed a spirited competition that nurtured her interest in reading.

“It was funny to compete with Muslima,” Omina said. “We both came to the summer camp to develop our speaking and reading skills and to read as many books as possible.”

Because of the friendly competition, Muslima is committed to improving her reading. “I will continue to compete with Omina to progress in reading. If she reads 10 books, I will read 20, and if she reads 20 books, I will read 30!” Muslima said.

Supporting Reading at Home

An early grade reading assessment conducted through the project found that the frequency with which families read together is a factor in determining if a student reads at the appropriate grade level. This finding means that the RWM summer camps could represent a space where parents could contribute to their children’s education.

“It is essential that parents help their children enjoy reading.”

Jafarbi Hasanova, summer camp counselor

Through RWM, counselors encouraged parents to facilitate reading at home. Summer camp counselor Jafarbi Hasanova — one of 234 RWM-trained counselors — recognizes the significance of parents helping their children read. “I am trying to involve more parents in our sessions and familiarize them with interactive methods of reading instruction,” Jafarbi said. “Because it will help children experience reading as an enjoyable subject and not feel they are being forced to study.”

When Manzura Davlatova, mother of first-grader Vohidjon Karimov, saw how her son had improved his reading skills at the summer camp, she felt inspired to bring home the “magic box” — an interactive reading game she discovered at the summer camp. She created a special “magic box” filled with question cards. Every time Vohidjon pulls a card, he must search for answers in his books.

Manzura and her son Vohidjon read together.
Manzura and her son Vohidjon read together.

Next Steps

Through its approach, RWM has led to improved reading and comprehension outcomes and aims to continually address gaps based on lessons learned throughout the rest of the project.

RWM project plans to expand this summer camp model in 2020 by including 570 summer camps for primary grade students in Grades 2 to 4. Most importantly, the project will continue to fulfill its larger strategy of ensuring that children in Tajikistan are prepared for lifelong success. After all, Yusufjon’s journey indicates that the RWM summer camp improved his reading skills and may have given him the courage to overcome future challenges as well.

The RWM project helped Yusufjon and many other children to become confident readers and develop a lifelong love of reading and learning.

RWM Summer Camp Outcomes as of Year 3:


Total procured reading materials


Training sessions held for summer camps counselors


Schools participated in summer camps