12 hours Pretoria 22 May 2017
Teaching literacy is incomplete without full involvement of the early readers’ parents, caregivers and siblings. To change the reading literacy direction of the country and celebrate Africa Day, Balang Foundation held an arms length session with about 50 parents in Attridgeville on 25 May 2017. A delegation of the foundation sent four important messages for improving reading in the homes. First, parents understood how reading words at syllable levels can be a dangerous precedence for reading development in future. Syllables are not particularly important for meaning making in African languages. Because of this lack of value, most of the teaching in African languages version the logic of syllables from English and as a result create the so called ‘ba-be-bi-bo-bu’ methodology where children put these sounds to memory when they are not useful at a later stage. To respect African languages and their internal structure, syllabic reading should be avoided at all costs as it breeds bad reading habits that hamper comprehension at a later stage. These behaviours were identified as: head movement, regression, finger pointing and verbalization. Parents got the message straight that when syllables are used as units of reading, the parents need to help the child to close these into a full meaningful word. For example: I-n-vu-la should be closed as ‘invula’ once.
The next issue that impedes comprehension is read aloud. While this skill is practiced in many schools nationally, we find that over-emphasis at the expense of silent reading robs the readers of the opportunity to read for meaning and enjoyment. At worse, many readers at grade 6 are conditioned to believe that this is the only way to approach a text. It is very important to let children have opportunities for silent reading. Finally, when it comes to habits formation, it was stressed that parents should be involved in the reading process for the children. Parents should model reading to the extent that a reading time should be given a ‘sacred’ time without competition with television. Parents cannot watch television programmes while their kids are reading in another room. Secondly, in the process of reading for (scaffolded reading) and reading with (shared reading), parents and caregivers need to spend at least 15 minutes daily with children on reading. This is more effective if it is happening just before bedtime.