Children's early literacy is something I'm excited about. I'm sure I annoyed all my mummy friends going on about it when my son was a baby, because I was so excited about the research I was reading and giving him, what I considered to be, the best start in life.
I've relaxed a bit since having a second child; as in I've stopped being so evangelical about it, I'm still actively teaching her to read!
But what's heart breaking is reading reports from save the children which show that poor nutrition (something I'm also passionate about) between the ages of 0-5 is not only damaging to children's physical health, it retards the brains ability to learn specific skills such as literacy, leading to generations of children who can't learn to read properly, no matter how hard they or their teachers try.
Kasturi is the younger sister of Sangeeta.
Whilst she was small her family were struck by poverty and she had little to eat. In fact, the families nutrition was so poor that her twin sister died as their mother was unable to produce enough milk to feed them both.
Kasturi's teacher, Chandra, says this:
"I've been Kasturi's teacher for two years now. Her learning is very slow and there has been no major improvement. She has difficulty writing, but can identify alphabets and pictures.
Even though she is in class 3 now, Kasturi still struggles with words and maths. She can't even keep up with the class two students.
Sangeeta was one of our bright students... ...she was very active and still is... ...a lack of proper food usually hampers children's ability to grasp things and slows down the pace of learning. There are a lot of children like Kasturi."
85% of brain growth occurs in the first five years of life, so it is critical that children receive proper nutrition during this period. Every year 2.3 million children die of malnutrition, but millions more are stunted both physically and educationally by it, leading to a cycle of poverty where the generation after them too will suffer the same.
This is Ngouth:
He has had to move back two years in school because he and his family regularly don't have enough food. The area where he lives in the south Sudan has been named one of the world's hungriest places according to the UN.
In his own words:
"I was five years old when I started school. Sometimes I had to stop coming because I was hungry. For two years I dropped out because I had to go to the river to fish and to the bush to collect wild fruits for my family."
This is why school feeding schemes, such as Compassion's child survival and child sponsorship programmes and Save the Children's work, are so important. When a child receives a meal at school, they are not only able to attend, but able to learn.