READING is the most critical skill acquired in early education and is the foundation for all future learning, says USAID acting mission director Mikaela Meredith.
The United States and Zambia are jointly implementing an initiative designed to improve the reading skills of one million Zambian children by the end of the 2015 school year.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Education - in collaboration with Zanaco, Kansanshi Foundation and Maiden Publishing House yesterday launched Reading Tools in a Box: a collection of simple, low-cost reading materials to improve early grade literacy. Each box contains teachers' guides, English to local language dictionaries, various learning supplies, and 75 booklets on various subjects, including HIV and AIDS prevention.  
Meredith said Reading Tools in a Box would help learners develop this all-important skill.
According to a statement by the United States Embassy in Lusaka, while access to education had improved in Zambia, academic performance remained very low, especially in reading. 
"A study of grade six learners found that less than 30 per cent were able to read at even a basic competency level. To boost literacy, the USAID-funded Read to Succeed programme teamed up with the Ministry of Education to develop a stronger approach to teaching literacy in grade one in seven local languages, with Reading Tools in a Box being one promising practice of the new approach," read the statement in part.  
It stated that while Read to Succeed and the Ministry of Education designed Reading Tools in a Box, the distribution of the tools was in the hands of the private sector.
For the launch, Zanaco and the Kansanshi Foundation funded the production of boxes and Maiden Publishing House gave a production discount and is funding the delivery of the boxes to schools.
It stated that a KR1,000 investment procures one box, giving students in two grade levels the opportunity to improve their reading skills.