The Laubach method
Dr. Frank Laubach began his literacy work in 1929 in the Philippines where he was a missionary. Now, his work is carried on by Laubach Literacy international, an institution that has worked in almost every country in the world.
The "Laubach method" is a comprehensive system that includes a teaching methodology, a specific set of materials, the use of volunteer teachers and the publication of literature for new literates.
This strategy uses a one-on-one method, called "each one teach one," by which one literate volunteer teaches one illiterate person to read. That new literate then volunteers time to teach another illiterate person. The eventual goal is that the whole community achieves literacy.
Advantages of the Laubach approach are the speed with which adults learn to read in their own language; the fact that each learner is taught on a one-to-one basis and can continue by teaching someone else; and the ability to reach many people in a sort of chain reaction.
The Laubach method uses a highly structured curriculum and standardized teaching materials. The basic Laubach teaching tool is a pre-designed picture-letter-word chart. Each picture on the chart has been carefully chosen to represent both the shape of the letter to be learned and a word that begins with that letter. In the Spanish language example on page 20, the letter P is represented by a man with his weekly pay (pago) and another man who is unemployed (vago) represents the letter "V". The teacher uses the chart to help the learner recognize the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represent.
As soon as the learner understands the picture-letter-word associations the teacher moves on to simple stories in a reading primer that is keyed to the words on the chart. This first primer has a vocabulary of only 120 words; it is followed by a second primer that adds another 1000 words to the vocabulary list.
UNIDAD I: LecciÃ³n I
Charts and other materials which have been developed in about 300 languages for more than 100 countries are used in both Laubach and non-Laubach programs. Learning initial letters, words, and reading in the context of a picture gives the learner the satisfaction, usually in her very first lesson, of reading a message. With tints beginning, a number of other skills essential to reading and writing are introduced in careful sequence. These include learning all the letters and their combinations, learning whole words, and word analysis. In all the Laubach teaching materials, reading and writing go hand in hand, with practice provided for the learner in writing letters, words and sentences as she learns to read them.
The results of Paulo Freire's work have lead to criticism of Laubach's method as lacking relevance for the illiterate populations of developing countries. In response to some of this criticism, materials have been changed to reflect the concerns of those learners.
The Spanish language example represents a modification of the earlier Laubach method. instead of beginning with the chart, the attention of students is drawn to a large picture of, for example, workers outside a factory. Discussion which arouses student interest in the subject of work and unemployment is lead by the specially trained teacher. Then the word chart with "pago" and "vago" are shown and the method proceeds in the usual manner.
Laubach international's efforts depend on volunteers who receive an average of 12 hours of initial training. Each volunteer teaches one-on-one, though the Laubach materials are also used in group classes. Laubach has found that volunteers who are close in education and economic standing to the students make the best teachers, though teachers of any educational level and economic standing can offer valuable help. Special consideration is given to encouraging new literates to transfer their skill to other members of their community.
Many Laubach groups have produced follow-up literature for new literates to read. Some of this literature has been produced by professionals and is based on research into the reading needs and desires of their clients. In some cases, follow-up literature has been produced by learners and new literates with the help of trained leaders. More than 50 of these "books from the people" have been published for Latin America and provide an impressive source of reading materials for a new reading population.
Laubach international's office in the United States is listed in Chapter Nine. That office only provides materials in English. Local Laubach groups exist in many Third World countries, and they produce materials in the local languages. Even if a literacy worker is not going to use the whole Laubach method, she would benefit from contacting the local Laubach group. They will have reading materials for new literates and other materials that may be helpful in supplementing beginning literacy activities.