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While reading for meaning is the goal of reading, many foundational skills need to be mastered before children can read and understand a text on their own. This report establishes thresholds and benchmarks for foundational early grade reading skills that are necessary (albeit not sufficient) to read for meaning in Nguni languages in the South African context. Our approach to establishing benchmarks integrates theoretical understandings of reading development with an exploratory analysis of early grade reading assessment (EGRA) data in three Nguni languages: isiZulu, isiXhosa and siSwati. The data used is the largest available source of information on early grade reading in these languages, with multiple and comparative assessment data points for nearly 16,400 unique learners in the early grades. By rigorously analysing empirical regularities and reading trajectories across these data, we identify the following context-sensitive benchmarks and threshold: a lettersounds benchmark at the end of grade 1 of 40 letter-sounds per minute; a lower fluency threshold at the end of grade 2 of 20 correct words per minute and a fluency benchmark at the end of grade 3 of 35 correct words per minute.

Cally Ardington, Gabrielle Wills, Elizabeth Pretorius, Nicola Deghaye, Nompumelelo Mohohlwane, Alicia Menendez, Nangamso Mtsatse, and Servaas van der Berg

Find a summary version of the report here.