The first Reading Round Table
The Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga recently hosted the first Reading Round table Discussion held at the DBE Conference Centre in Pretoria. The aim of the discussion and the round table sessions in particular is to create an “initiative towards empowering communities and schools in particular to start a Reading Revolution”
This is one of many initiatives that focus on literacy and numeracy as a means to improve learning outcomes. ” A learner’s ability to read, write and calculate is considered a vital toolkit in the pursuit of success and in managing life in general.” the minister commented during the meeting.
A number of experts were invited and the media was also in attendance.
Highlights from the round table
The minister identified critical factors that impact in developing and promoting a culture of literacy some of these include Access to materials, A national reading policy, Government promotion of a culture of literacy and The role of libraries. Some of these identified factors are rather lacking especially when considering the recent textbook scandal that rocked Limpopo and the lack of proper library facilities in many of the previously disadvantaged areas. Clearly some work still needs to be done.
In response the minister said: “I was convinced that the Sector needed to rejuvenate its reading initiatives hence, I declared Reading promotion and the Library and Information Services a national priority.” Along with this renewed focus on reading an literacy the minster announced some new programs and the rejuvenation of some existing programs. These include among others resuscitation of the “Drop All and Read” programme, in June 2015, 1000 schools offering Grades 1-3 will be implementing the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) gives a higher weighting to reading and writing skills in Grades R to 12.
In particular the “Drop All and Read” programme is interesting. As part of this programme student are required to spend a certain amount of time reading. Taking the lead the minister announced: ” Ladies and Gentlemen, starting on Wednesday, 1 April 2015, I will launch the Drop All and Read programme, here at the Department of Basic Education. I have taken the decision to make Drop All and Read a mandatory activity by granting the entire DBE staff to engage in 30 minutes of pleasure reading from 12h00 to 12h30 on the first Wednesday of the month.”
The minister recommended school principals and staff to take steps that will encourage reading.
Impact on dyslexic students
The official comments from the minster does not mention students with learning disabilities like dyslexia and ADHD. Also no mention on how these student will be accommodated with higher weighting of reading and writing skills in the CAPS and the new Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA). Sandra Stark (attendee) did comment that her point of view going into the meeting was: “that 20% of all dyslexics in our country, regardless of their culture, language, gender, age or race, should be assisted and accommodated to achieve the goal of reading and writing.” It is unclear if this was mentioned as part of the meeting.
This reinvigorated mission to establish a strong reading culture in South African schools is certainly good news. Familyzone learning supports any such initiative but would like to see a strong commitment from the minister to provide support for students with dyslexia or other disabilities.