About half of Israel’s high school students fail English, says Ma’aleh Adumim teacher Galia Cohen – despite starting to learn ithe language in the third grade in Israeli schools — and that has tremendously damaging implications for their future.
“Every university, college, and even certificate program requires a high level of English, and any professional who wants to become a part of their international professional community and keep track of developments does so in English. So many people in Israel are held back because of a lack of English.”
To alleviate the problem, Cohen started an afterschool English skills enhancement program in Ma’aleh Adumim and surrounding towns. For the past 10 years, A.H.A.V.A has been running programs that have ensured that many youngsters who were in danger of falling behind were able to keep up with their English studies, and even thrive.
One feature of A.H.A.V.A’s program has been an annual Read-a-thon – a month-long campaign that has kids reading ten or even more books, in order to raise funds for the program. This year’s Read-a-thon kicks off this coming Thursday – and newly-arrived in Israel British rapper “Antithesis” will be performing to help get kids interested in the Read-a-thon and in A.H.A.V.A’s program.
Antithesis, who now lives in Tel Aviv, calls himself the “Zionist Rapper,” and has written songs on Israel’s survival, kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, missing airman Ron Arad, and other Jewish and Israeli subjects. He has sold thousands of recordings, and has performed in many venues in the UK, as well as in as well as in Israel, Argentina and the US. He also hosted Britain’s first Israeli music radio program, Kol Cambridge, which was nominated for a BBC Student Radio Award. The name, his website says, was given to him by a friend, who termed him the antithesis of a stereotypical rapper.
“Ostensibly, the Read-a-thon is supposed to raise money, but its real purpose is to get kids to read more,” says Cohen. “The contest aspect of the Read-a-thon – with kids racing to read more and raise more money – does wonders for their reading level. Studies show that when kids read at least 10 books in a short period, such as a month, their reading level goes up by a year. I can see from the books they read at the beginning of the Read-a-thon, as compared to the books they are reading at the end, just how much progess they have made.”
Antithesis agrees with Cohen on the importance of developing English skills, and was happy to lend his talents to promoting the after school program and the Read-a-thon, says Cohen, adding “maybe I can get him to write a rap on the importance of reading.”