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The Tusome Early Grade Reading Activity is a 7-year USAID activity implemented in Kenya by RTI from August 2014 to November 2021. Tusome means “Let’s read” in Kiswahili. The 2016 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) represents the midline (second) assessment of the program.

The goal of Tusome is to improve Kiswahili and English reading outcomes among Kenyan students in grades 1-3.

EGRA Subtasks

An EGRA measures children’s pre-reading and reading skills. The subtasks used in this assessment are described below.

Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)

The oral reading fluency (ORF) subtask measures how quickly and accurately a student can read. It is a core component of EGRA because it brings together lower-level reading skills (such as decoding and familiar word recognition) with how quickly and easily the student can read a given word (called automaticity).

Students were given a short, written passage on a topic that was familiar to them. They were asked to read it out loud “quickly but carefully” and were given 60 seconds from when they begin to read. The EGRA administrator timed the student, making note of any mistakes the student made while reading the words aloud. The score is reported as correct words per minute (cwpm).

Tested in English and Kiswahili.

Initial Sound

The initial sound subtask is a measure of a student’s ability to identify the first sound in a word. It also measures a student’s ability to separate words into sounds and to manipulate those sounds.

Students were told 10 words verbally and asked to isolate and pronounce the first sound of the word (the initial sound). The EGRA administrator recorded the number of correct letter sounds identified.

Tested in English only.

Letter Sounds

The letter sounds subtask tests students’ ability to recognize letters and speak their corresponding sounds.

Students were presented with a sheet listing 100 letters and asked to say out loud the letter sound for as many as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could, in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator timed the child and recorded the number of correct letter sounds per minute (clspm).

Tested in English and Kiswahili.


The nonword subtask tests students’ skill in using letter-sound connections to figure out (“decode”) words. While many students learn to memorize a broad range of "sight" words, they need skills to decode less-familiar words.

In this subtask, students were given a list of 50 made-up words that do not exist in the language tested but follow a typical spelling/sound combination of the language. This ensures that the student is not recognizing the whole word and must “sound-out” the non-word in order to correctly read it. The student was asked to read out loud as many words as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could. The EGRA administrator timed the student and recorded the number of correct words per minute (cnwpm).

Tested in English and Kiswahili.


Vocabulary is words and their meanings; this subtask measures what words students know. Research suggests children need to understand at least 90% of the vocabulary in a passage for comprehension to occur.

In this subtask, the EGRA administrator spoke 20 words aloud and asks the student to “point” to their meaning (e.g., a body part, a simple object). The administrator records the number of vocabulary words the student got correct, with no time limit.

Tested in English only.

Reading Comprehension

Comprehension is the main goal of reading—understanding what is read. Comprehension is a complex task that requires some ability in all other reading skills.

This subtask is paired with the ORF subtask. Depending on how much of the ORF passage the student was able to read, the EGRA administrator asks the student up to five questions (four literal and one inferential) about the story. The EGRA administrator recorded the number of questions answered correctly.

Tested in English and Kiswahili.

Year 2016
Grade(s) 1, 2
Language English, Kiswahili
Assessment Type National Reading Program
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Districts Included in the Study

Not part of the study
Part of the study
Map of Kenya

Key Findings

  • 1/3

    2016 Midline Results from Kenya Tusome (“Let’s Read” in Kiswahili)

    Bar chart showing average oral reading fluency for boys and girls in grades 1 and 2. Numerical values presented in bar chart: Grade 1 girls 25, Grade 1 boys 20, Grade 2 girls 46, Grade 2 boys 41.
  • 2/3

    2016 Midline Results from Kenya Tusome (“Let’s Read” in Kiswahili)

    Bar chart showing average oral reading fluency for grade 2 students in Kiswahili and English. Numerical values presented in bar chart: Kiswahili 22, English 44.
  • 3/3

    Although average reading fluency scores increased from baseline to midline, 59% of grade 2 students were still not able to correctly answer a comprehension question from the English passage.

Program Design

Tusome worked with over 77,000 teachers in nearly 23,000 public schools and 1,500 low-cost private schools in all 47 Kenyan counties. The Activity trained teachers in reading instruction each year, provided them with scripted lesson plans, and supplied books to classrooms at a 1-to-1 student-to-book ratio. Tusome and government coaches visited schools to observe lessons and give teachers targeted feedback.

Evaluation Design

These data are from the baseline and midline administrations of an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in Kiswahili and English in Kenya to evaluate the impact of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded Tusome national early grade reading program. The study was designed as a non-experimental assessment of the national program, measuring learning outcome change between the baseline and midline conducted in 2015 and 2016, respectively. A total of 203 schools were sampled at each timepoint and approximately 12 students per school/grade from grades 1 and 2 were assessed at the selected schools for a total of 9,513 observations.

The baseline data were collected approximately 6 months into the first school year. Midline data were collected at the end of the second school year, in 2016. More detailed information about this implementation of Tusome may be found in Tusome External Evaluation Midline Report, Management Systems International (MSI), April 2017 (PDF, 4.7 MB).

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