In 2011, the Gambian government, with the support of the Global Partnership for Education, launched a national pilot program “Early learning in national languages”. Children learned reading in one of the 5 national languages. These have a more consistent relationship between sounds and letters than English does, and of course, they are the languages in which the children think. This makes it easier for the children to learn.
They were taught letters one by one along with systematic combinations to blend into words. When the pilot was evaluated in 2012 the initial results were striking.
Gambian children in Grade 1 who were part of the pilot did ten times better than children who were not part of the pilot in recognizing letter sounds and reading simple words. Even better, many children in the pilot were able to transfer their new skills to reading English words.