May 2021.

Reading clubs across community schools in the Kouga area, are taking measures to help learners catch-up on reading skills that have been impacted by months of interruptions to schooling caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learner reading proficiency has been impacted by the closure of schools during the pandemic and by reduced school attendance due to timetable rotations. The Reading Assistants across twelve schools, who are part of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm Literacy and Numeracy Programme, have reported that even learners with good reading levels have been negatively impacted and are in need of extra attention.

“Reports from our Reading Assistants indicated that although learners had not completed a full school year, they were promoted to the next grade, which means that reading competency levels, in relation to grades, have dropped. Additionally, learners reading levels are directly impacted by the interruption in daily reading at school, which is guided and assisted,” commented Tsholofelo Moote, Economic Development Officer for Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, who funds this programme as part of its Socio-Economic Development Programme.

Schools are also reporting that reading is being consistently negatively impacted by the ongoing school attendance rotational system.

“Children experience a decline in their reading development, known as reading loss, when they are away from the classroom for prolonged periods, such as our C-19 shutdown in 2020, followed by the long December holiday. Plus, they feel more pressured and overwhelmed by the school work and therefore find it difficult to cope. The assistance provided by the Reading Assistants is immeasurable now,” explained Caroll Warmberg, Managing Director, ITEC, which is responsible for the implementation of the programme.

The reading clubs assist Grade 1 – Grade 4 and previously reported resounding literacy results and growing support amongst learners and schools. They are now adapting their timetables, duration and participant numbers, as guided by the Department of Basic Education’s C-19 regulations for schools.

They are made up of small numbers, 8 to 15 learners per group, with some groups meeting at least three times per week, with one of the schools reporting nine club meetings a week.

In addition to supporting reading development, members thrive on the social interaction amongst like-minded members and book club conveners will now begin to introduce games and other fun activities linked to reading, to help draw even more interest.

“We would like to help encourage reading for pleasure after the Foundation Phase, hence a percentage of our literacy fund goes towards providing reading clubs with an exciting selection of interesting age-and stage-appropriate books, which they borrow to read at home, as well as the necessary infrastructural support,” concluded Tsholofelo Moote.

Reading clubs are currently active at the following schools: Laerskool Gamtoosvallei; St Patrick’s Primary School; Pellsrus Primary School; Hankey Primary School; Chigwell Primary School; Graslaagte Primary School; Kruisfontein Primary School; Patensie Primary School; Quagga Primary School; Vukani Primary School; Weston Primary School; and Sea Vista Primary School.