Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers


April 20, 2020

What if the language you grew up speaking didn’t have its own alphabet? What if people tried to “borrow” from another alphabet but it didn’t work well, so written messages were hard to decipher, and no books or newspapers existed in your native tongue? Would you decide to create a new alphabet for your language? Would you start working on it at 14, along with your 10-year-old brother?

As incredible as it sounds, that’s exactly what brothers Abdoulaye and Ibrahima Barry did in Guinea (in western Africa) about 30 years ago. Their alphabet is called “ADLaM,” and if you enter that term into a search engine, you’ll find articles and videos about it. An article in The Atlantic tells the brothers’ story, shows the alphabet they created, and explains how some of the 40 million speakers of Fulani are reaping the benefits.

Intrigued? Chances are, this amazing story would intrigue your students as well — and it could give them a new perspective on language and literacy. There are several online videos featuring the creators of ADLaM that you could watch and discuss together. A virtual “watch party” and discussion could be the springboard to a variety of fun follow-up projects or activities. Some students might be inspired to learn a new language. Others might want to create their own alphabet, or think up solutions to communication problems in English, or find out more about other young inventors who’ve made the world a better place. Some students might write a story about a world without written language, or draw a picture that tells a story. The possibilities are endless!

If literacy is a focus for your program team, the Introduction section of Y4Y’s updated Literacy course is your passport to knowledge. You’ll tour the four components of literacy (reading, writing, speaking and listening). You’ll also discover how literacy instruction has evolved over time, its benefits, and how it fits with 21st CCLC program goals.

Exploring new ideas together with your staff and students reminds them that the world is an amazing place, full of creative people and unexplored possibilities. Stories like that of the Barry brothers can inspire all of us to grow wings and soar high!


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