Visualizing a nation of readers
MYReaders have developed their own teaching materials which consist of a workbook and a set of short stories called decodables. This toolkit is designed to enable a child to become literate in just six months, starting with phonics and ending with comprehension.
At the beginning of the peer-to-peer reading session in SK Kampung Idaman, students found their spots on the floor with their workbooks. Mentors and mentees grouped up and started reading aloud together while pointing at the words.
Having a vision as grand as nation-wide literacy can never be realized through an individual feat; instead, it will take the collective work of so many people, of constant partnerships and community-building efforts.
When we met Alex and Sue Yen of MYReaders, what became apparent was that their organization was fueled by people who understood their vision. MYReaders, their youth literacy non-profit initiative in Malaysia, had a goal of literacy for all—a difficult feat considering that half of 15-year-old Malaysians are unable to read, especially in English. Thus, teachers, volunteers, and students participated in their literacy sessions and worked one-on-one with the youth, teaching them to read one word, phrase, and sentence at a time.
Though the volunteers definitely share the vision of MYReaders, it was a totally different matter whether the vision accommodated them as much as it could.
As we taught along with the peer-to-peer program in SK Kampung Idaman and visited the community hall in PPR Kerinchi to work with volunteers in one of their sessions, there were moments when a lack of motivation seemed apparent on the teachers' and volunteers' side. Teachers could have been more hands-on in facilitating the session and guiding student mentors; volunteers could be more committed to the six-month program rather than just attending one or two sessions.
We understood immediately that there were still things we needed to work on to make the vision become more sustainable. Due to MYReaders' limited manpower and a small operations team, volunteers only had the benefit of a few event updates and a quick 15-minute orientation session before immersing themselves in the sessions with children. As for teachers and student mentors, they only undergo one training session at the beginning of the six-month program. Though this was enough for some, others felt inadequately prepared, and some even felt underappreciated.
We had two goals: to equip and to celebrate MYReaders' mission and mentors.
MYReaders' strategy is unique in that they work through volunteer or peer-to-peer learning, thereby highlighting the reality that education is everyone's business. Immersing and working closely with them has led us to see this particular dynamic during reading sessions, both student and mentor point at the word they have to read. That's the inspiration for the new logo, and the strength of MYReaders—they face each other; they learn together.
Our multiple conversations with Alex and Sue Yen, all throughout our stay, gave us a clear image of what MYReaders wanted to achieve. However, it was then that we saw that the volunteers may not have a similar closeness or access to the identity of MYReaders. While we saw the vision of a non-profit trying to bring literacy to an entire nation's children, there was a very real possibility that they only saw a vision of just another organization that kept asking for volunteers to help them do their work. It became clear—we were the ones that needed to adjust.
We had two goals: to equip and to celebrate MYReaders' mission and mentors. The first goal called for the creation of tools and materials for the organization and its stakeholders that would streamline processes and make information more accessible. The second goal pushed us to increase the emotional value of teaching in order to deepen the connection between mentors and mentees.
We developed MYReaders' brand strategy and structure to make sure the whole team was on the same page before moving on to any visuals. We found that their logo did not reflect their mission, so we designed one inspired by the way mentors and mentees read together. We refined their existing materials, such as business cards, t-shirts, and presentation slides. We created social media graphics to gain more traction online, where MYReaders reaches its volunteers. Our goal was to translate into visuals the expertise and reputability we saw in the team, so that investors, teachers, and volunteers would feel secure and supported throughout their partnership.
For teachers and volunteers, we recommended to create a training video that would prepare them for sessions. We designed materials that would enhance the experience of the teachers, volunteers, and mentees with MYReaders: a notebook, posters they can put up in their classrooms, button pins, and stamps. Aside from easing their burden by streamlining the requisite processes and heightening emotional resonance with MYReaders, we wanted to remind them that this is not just an operation; instead, this is a mission, and we're all glad you share our vision.
A grand vision is, by nature, shared. One of our partners, Sue Yen, told us: “I was never fussy about the logo or design of our brand, but seeing the new logo, I realized that a symbol can have a deeper meaning and a story behind it.” Hopefully, with motivated teachers and volunteers, and with more people identifying with our story, we along with the community can help speak into existence our vision of a nation of readers.