UP tackles low literacy skills at schools

Posted on August 19, 2022

The Fostering Life-Long team at the University of Pretoria (UP) recently launched a project to encourage a love of reading and to improve literacy skills among learners at Gauteng schools.

According to Dr Mia le Roux, a senior lecturer in UP’s Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, literacy skills are extremely low in South Africa. The team – which consists of Dr Le Roux, Dr Salomé Geertsema and Dr Carmen Milton – is collaborating with the Tshwane North branch of the Gauteng Department of Education, the World Literacy Foundation (WLF), Sun Books and the National Reading Coalition to tackle the problem head on.

UP students from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology read stories to learners before playing fun, educational games that are based on the stories.

“Part of the collaboration with these bodies entails the enhancement of literacy skills through the introduction of electronic materials created to improve reading and spelling skills,” said Dr Le Roux. “The materials are loaded onto tablets that are sponsored by Sun Books and the WLF.”

The project also includes reading days, which involves the team going to schools selected by the Tshwane North Department of Education. UP students from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology read stories to the learners before playing fun, educational games with them that are based on the stories.

“Improving literacy skills in the early years is important, which is why we started at primary schools; we are focusing on pre-school grades as well,” Dr Le Roux explained. “Additionally, we hope to expand the project to include secondary schools. We want to assist in making the nation a nation of skilful readers.”

Without sufficient literacy skills, no successful learning can take place, she added.

“Without the ability to learn successfully, academic achievement is usually low, and that predicts poor job opportunities and poverty. It is important to try to stimulate a love and enjoyment of reading; that usually improves literacy skills, because children are more willing to read when they enjoy what they are doing.”

The team is currently collecting books to donate to schools in early September on International Literacy Day. In future, they would like to visit more primary and secondary schools as well as children’s home and retirement homes.

“Unlocking the world of literacy is unlocking the world,” Dr Le Roux said. “Children of all ages should realise that reading is not just an academic activity, but an enjoyable activity that enriches your life on various levels.” 

- Author Mecayla Maseka

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