Reading and Succeeding in WISE English

“Bubbles rising through the silence of the sea, silvery beads of breath from a man deep,deep down,” Reena read, pausing occasionally to sound out a new or difficult sound, “in a strange and shimmering ocean land.” She looked up and smiled as Afnaan pulled the book toward her to begin reading the next page. Just a few weeks ago, reading such a complex sentence out loud would have been a near impossible feat—much less mustering the self-confidence to sound out words, to try and fail and try again. But by now, six weeks into classes, these sorts of moments are an everyday occurrence.

Afnaan and Reena are my students in WISE Beginner English, a basic English class offered to participants in TYO’s Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs program, which provides resources and training to Nablus-area businesswomen. To appreciate Afnaan and Reena’s progress in my class, it’s important to understand where we started. In our first few lessons, we focused exclusively on the alphabet, particularly challenging letters like g, j, c, s, u, and y; vowels and vowel sounds; and the construction of simple sentences like “I run” using only nouns and verbs. Afnaan and Reena are eager and dedicated students, but these lessons were a challenge.

Afnaan and Reena

In the last few lessons, however, as we have focused on reading and understanding new words, Afnaan and Reena have demonstrated just how far they’ve come, confidently reading complicated sentences out loud and working through the words they don’t understand. We’ve read stories about colors, bullfighting in Spain, the purpose of life (using a short story based on writings by Nabokov), and the famous French explorer Jacques Cousteau. With each new book, I can see Afnaan and Reena improving, getting more excited about reading, and gaining more and more confidence in their ability to succeed.

The skills and self-confidence they’re gaining through classes is both a personal victory and a very real boost to their business—not to mention an impressive accomplishment in just a few short weeks.


Alex is an intern at TYO in Nablus.