The Zenex Foundation hosted the main plenary session at the annual Reading Association of South Africa (RASA) Conference at Clarendon Primary School in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu-Natal on Saturday, 1 October 2016. The panel, Chaired by Zenex Foundation CEO, Ms Gail Campbell, was headlined by Dr Nic Spaull from ReSEP (Research on Socio-Economic Policy); Prof Leketi Makalela, Head of the Division of Languages, Literacies and Literatures at Wits School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand; Dr Stephen Taylor, researcher and advisor to the Director-General, Department of Basic Education, and Prof. Elizabeth Pretorius, professor of linguistics and modern languages, UNISA.
Many South African children complete Grades 1 - 3 without being able to read properly in their home language. This will make it difficult for them to read with comprehension in English, the language they will be taught in and expected to learn from Grade 4. Research has shown that vocabulary correlates strongly with language proficiency, oral comprehension, reading comprehension, writing and academic literacy. Hence, a weak literacy and language foundation in the early grades constitutes some of the major factors leading to poor learning outcomes in later grades, weak general knowledge and indeed, academic performance.
The RASA 2016 conference took place at a time when many educators and researchers are explicitly acknowledging that reading is critical in literacy and language development, and indispensable for attaining better outcomes in mathematics and science.
Each panellist presented an aspect of Zenex’s research and interventions in literacy and language development. The presenters:
- Provided a contextual overview of current reading outcomes in both African Home Languages and English/Afrikaans First Additional Language.
- Spoke to insights emerging from various programmes in Home Language and First Additional Language interventions on reading to learn in the later grades.
- Gave research outcomes on the use of translingual approaches in reading instruction in early reading literacy programmes and recommendations for future research in the Foundation Phase for adaptation in comparable contexts.
- Gave a brief outline of how the vocabulary component within the Zenex Literacy Project is implemented in order to help teachers actively build Home Language and First Additional Language vocabularies in learners throughout the Foundation Phase, to reduce learning barriers and help learners cope better with the cognitive demands of the Intermediate Phase and beyond.
Dr Nic Spaull’s presentation can be accessed on this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tx55q0459mmz4az/Zenex%20overview%20of%20reading%20outcomes%20%281%20Oct%202016%29.pptx?dl=0