September 2018.

A literacy Imbizo, recently took place in Humansdorp, in the Kouga Local Municipality, to address the protracted reading crisis that plagues our country and this local region, but more importantly to devise ways to increase reading comprehension that will bring about deeper levels of understanding.

The Imbizo, aptly titled “Taking reading comprehension beyond literal recall – nurturing deeper levels of understanding” was led by Linguistics and Modern Languages Professor Lilli Pretorius, from the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, at the University of South Africa.

School principals, educators, reading assistants and District Education officials attended this workshop to explore techniques to deepen learners’ understanding.

“The whole purpose of reading is to understand what one reads. Yet both small and large scale studies in South Africa consistently show that our children have problems with reading. In a recent large scale international study, 78% of Grade 4 learners tested in our country, could not read for meaning – in any language (they were tested in all 11 languages). South African learners also had the lowest performance in reading comprehension across all 50 participating countries. This is extremely significant, as being able to read well forms the basis of success at primary, secondary and tertiary level, and for personal and national economic prosperity,” explained Professor Lilli Pretorius.

“The workshop explored what it means to read with meaning, and how schools can help to develop high levels of reading comprehension in their learners from an early age in a focused yet fun and engaging way,” added Pretorius.

Delegates, working under the guidance of Professor Pretorius, functioned in optimally-sized groups to participate in a range of hands-on comprehension activities, working in isiXhosa and Afrikaans.  This platform coupled with the expertise on hand, provided an optimal setting to explore the different aspects of comprehension.

This hands-on approach, included reading children’s stories in all three local languages, discussing the stories and different ways of reading them, explored ways of asking different kinds of questions that can lead to deeper understanding and enjoyment of the stories, and how this in turn can help to motivate children to want to read.

“We need to not only tackle literacy levels but equip our educators with the skills and resources to enhance Foundation Phase comprehension in a more concrete manner,” concluded Hlengiwe Radebe, Economic Development Director for Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.