Promoting literacy in our nation

By Laticia Masia/sites/default/files/pictures/Laticia%20Masia-6796.jpg

Our global development, marked by periods of revolution and innovation, would not be possible without the solid foundation of good quality literacy.

The ability to read, write and understand well has afforded us vast developments that we enjoy today, such as mobile applications, breakthroughs in healthcare, science and technology.

Literacy unlocks the portals of knowledge that enables holistic human development and the expansion of our mental and physical horizons. The foundational skill of literacy equips us with knowledge that holds transformative power.

On the other hand, being illiterate disempowers people and stifles their development. For without the ability to read, people are robbed of a plethora of information, communication and knowledge, which is unfortunately the sad reality for many.

As a response to the global challenge of illiteracy, UNESCO advocates for literacy as a basic human right for every human being. As a member of UNESCO, South Africa’s sustainable development goals also include advancing literacy and promoting reading as a critical life skill.

Reading is the foundational skill which enables life-long learning and we therefore appeal to parents to read with their children from as early as possible.

From infancy, the development of the human mind can be stimulated and enhanced through reading as it sparks curiosity in children to learn, whilst stimulating their cognitive development, critical thinking and creative skills.

Through reading we acquire new skills that are essential for our development, making literacy the cornerstone for building sustainable livelihoods.

It is therefore essential that we support the culture of reading in our nation and incorporate it into our daily lifestyles. We can start by joining or creating book clubs that ultimately enhances knowledge as people come together and share their insights.

South Africans are also encouraged to experience the lived joy that comes through reading. Another way to incorporate reading into our lives is by participating in reading and writing competitions to sharpen our literacy skills, as well as reading for leisure or learning at home.

Government is working to promote literacy of learners in the early developmental years of our nation’s children. We have strengthened our Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes by adopting international best practices which contribute to the school readiness of children.

Efforts to improve the foundational phases of learning also include the Primary School Reading Improvement Programme which now incorporates indigenous African languages. Considering that more than 60 percent of South Africans are able to read at least one African language, we have incorporated indigenous African languages in graded reading books and teacher training.

In addition, a competency-based learning programme, focusing on grade 1 home language and foundational skills, has proven successful in sharpening reading, writing and cognitive skills.  

Our work to improve literacy and education is guided by national assessments such as Systemic Evaluation (SE) and Early Learning National Assessment (ELNA).  ELNA assists in tracking the early learning progress and school readiness whilst SE aids in monitoring literacy and comprehension at grade 3 level which is useful in ensuring children can read for meaning by grade 4 or age 10.  

While we have made many inroads to improve literacy, it is still concerning that there are some South Africans who cannot read for meaning.  We encourage every individual to take the initiative to read, learn, and awaken their vast potential.  Reading materials can be accessed from various sources including online, community libraries and service centres.

By incorporating a culture of reading and learning in our daily lives, we will unlock the doors to success and greater development. Reading will take this country to prosperity as it unlocks opportunities that flow from a broadened understanding of the country and the world.