Children learn to get value from reading

Roland Abrahams started a beginners reading programme at Saambou Primary School in Manenberg, and the pupils have shown great progress since it started in January. Seen with Mr Abrahams around the table, are, clockwise, from left, Keesha Petersen, Michaela Dyssel, Jamie-Lee Windvogel, Marcelino Julies, Ayesha Braaf, Leandre Sylvester and Jonathan Coaters, all Grade 3.

A reading project involving parents at Saambou Primary School in Manenberg is already bearing fruit, just a few months after it started.

The project is the brainchild of Roland Abrahams, who offers educational support and counselling.

Mr Abrahams said his aim is to get the children to read to learn, and not just to learn to read.

“The main concern is that pupils are not reading at their grade appropriate level, and many cannot comprehend what they have read. A 2016 study done by Progress in International Reading and Literacy Studies (Pirls) shows that between 75% and 80% of Grade 4 pupils are not reading at their grade level. South Africa ended up last of the 50 countries in this study. My concern is that so many officials want quantitative results, instead of qualitative results. I am concerned that children still cannot read with comprehension, and that there are so many repeats of grades in the foundation phase,” Mr Abrahams said.

Part of the project he initiated at Saambou Primary involves getting parents of Grade 3 pupils involved in the reading programme. They are equipped with the skills needed to help their children not just at school, but also at home.

They come to the school once a week but the work continues at home. At school, they are also paired with up to four children – this is to ensure that even those children whose parents cannot be there, are being helped.

Apart from this, Mr Abrahams also assessed all the pupils’ reading abilities, and now the school has regular time slots for reading. The pupils are grouped according to their grade level reading abilities. This means that a Grade 7 pupil could be grouped with Grade 3 pupils, if that is their reading level.

Said Mr Abrahams: “We started in January and we have seen tremendous progress in the four months we have been doing it. The children are now decoding automatically, building two and three sound words, and many have moved on to the comprehension level.

“The programme is fun and we use big, colourful books. Among the progress we have seen is a Grade 1 pupil who did not know any sounds of the alphabet, but since being part of the programme, the pupil can now identify 24 of the 26 letters in the alphabet.

“Overall, we have seen improvement in the foundation phase. The beginning reading stage programme can be used for every child, irrespective of their chronological reading age.

“Schools cannot work in isolation of parents and the community. I see parents as part of the solution to our reading challenges, not the problem. The project helps parents with a structured reading approach. Parents who are currently not working, have been eager to be part of the project.”

Parent Beverley Paulsen said she was initially apprehensive to be part of the programme, but now she is excited to be able to help the children.

“One of the things I have learnt here is to have patience. If I did not have it, I would not be able to help the children. It’s a pleasure for me, not just to assist my own child, but children from the community as well.

“My son was an introvert, but he is coming out of his shell now. We started with the alphabet and single sounds, and we use the phonics approach. There are still a few challenges, but we have come a long way. I now look forward to be at the school and help where I can. We would like to take this to the community, but in order for us to do that, we need the resources,” Ms Paulsen said.

Joan Windvogel, who has a daughter, Jamie-Lee, in Grade 3 and a son, Winston, in Grade R, said the programme has been a big help to her family.

“I have pasted word sounds on our walls at home. My son is doing much better now, because we do repetition.

“His older sister, Jamie-Lee, helps him a lot. Their favourite game to play at home now is ‘skooltjie skooltjie’ (play school).”

Patricia Bestman said the programme is interesting.

“I now have the tools to help my cousin’s grandson at home,” she said.

Saambou Primary School principal, Angelo Valentine, said the school received a visit from the Western Cape Education Department’s curriculum advisors, and that they have noticed the improvement in the reading abilities of the pupils.

“This is an indication that what we are doing is working. We want to strengthen that and keep the momentum going. The only challenge we have is resources. We are hoping business would assist us with reading material. We are on the right track and we are hoping to achieve our goals,” Mr Valentine said.

If you can assist with reading resources, contact Mr Abrahams at 076 896 1343.