PB04/2016

Learning to read and reading to learn

Stellenbosch Policy Brief No. 04/2016

Author(s): Nic Spaull

Download: PDF (819 KB)


Abstract:

Reading for meaning and pleasure is arguably the most important skill children learn in primary school. Since almost all future learning will depend on this fundamental understanding of the relation between print and spoken language, it is unsurprising that literacy, built upon a firm foundation of basic reading, is used as one of the primary measures of school efficacy.

This is why in the Foundation Phase (Grades 1 to 3) children are ‘learning to read’ but from Grade 4 onwards they are meant to be ‘reading to learn’, that is, using the skill of reading to acquire new information. However, if children cannot ‘read for meaning’ they cannot access the curriculum and they fall further and further behind even as they move into higher grades. Unfortunately, most children in South Africa do not learn to read for meaning by the end of Grade 3 and remain perpetually behind.