Mother-Tongue Literacy: Opening the World of Reading

Posted on: 
May 20, 2022

In South American jungles live many people who have never learned to read and write their own language. Not only does this feed their sense of inferiority; it also makes them vulnerable to being taken advantage of. And how will they ever read the Bible?

Breaking Barriers to Literacy

All-Nations teams generally serve people groups with low literacy rates. You might think, “Okay, give them audio Bibles to listen to.” Yes, we will produce audio Bibles, but we will also address the underlying problem of illiteracy, opening the world of reading for indigenous communities.

An early start

Teams encourage literacy early, whetting the people’s appetite for reading and writing their own language. In southern Mexico, Ethan and Lynnae printed simple booklets with a picture and a Mixtec word or phrase on each page. This way people begin to experience the joy of mother-tongue written communication. Sometimes, more basic skills need to be taught, like running the eyes from left to right and back to the next line and distinguishing letter shapes.

A sustainable method

We want to start literacy programs that can be carried forward by local people who learn to teach others. This means using a simple approach they can learn well and passing on responsibility to them all along the way.

We hope to see more and more people and villages learning to read. We envision churches of people who immerse themselves in God’s Word and follow Him together.

Ethnos360, an evangelical organization with similar goals, has demonstrated an effective method based on learning syllables rather than starting with letters. While other approaches work well in various situations, All-Nations teams plan to use primarily the syllable method.

A simple curriculum

After several years of learning language and gathering data, teams will meet with a literacy coach to develop a set of primers. Then they will develop lessons that have students reading sentences by the second primer lesson. Like you and I did in first grade, these people also begin writing as they are learning to read.

We have much to learn in this area. We pray that our literacy efforts will support the goal of sustainable and reproducible churches that glorify God.

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10