Reading builds bridges to knowledge


By dr. Ria Taylor

Reading is the most essential basic life skill that individuals must learn, master and use. It is a skill that builds the bridge to a world of knowledge. Reading is like a spiral staircase in the life of the individual, because it enables him to progress step by step in his cognitive development.

The persons who should unlock this reading skill in the child are all educators and this includes the parents. The SOS reading guide therefore recommend a “handle” solution from conception to 18 years.

The key to good reading skills is in every educator’s hand and they must intervene in time to identify reading problems across phases and remediate them in a structured way.

Reading teaching should therefore be a planned and conscious action of the language teacher in the classroom in particular. The language teacher must develop children’s critical reading abilities so that they can meet the demands of the 21st century environment.

Critical reading skills involve the development of metacognition. This is how one thinks about one’s own thinking in the reading process. Good readers use metacognition to think about reading and take control of their own reading. A child should therefore be taught to interact critically with texts by first expressing their own impressions about a text and then inserting further impressions and deductions with connection.

An aspect that is particularly neglected in the FET (further education and training phase) is reading aloud. Reading aloud gives exposure to sound comprehension, vocabulary and understanding of sentences in context. The teaching of reading aloud should take place in three phases, namely pre-reading, during read and post-read (SOS Reading Guide p.54).

Reading aloud is also essential for the development of metacognition. Children should first have the opportunity to read the text themselves in order to form their own impressions (pre-reading). Afterwards, the teacher can read a section and explain how he/she understands the text (during reading). During the post-reading phase, the child and the teacher compare their impressions, draw connections and draw conclusions.

An obstacle to reading aloud in today’s classroom can be the large number of children in a language classroom. However, it is possible to overcome this problem by the teacher making use of modeling and alternately involving one or two children in the reading process. The literature and reading comprehension period can be used for this. However, it is important that the language teacher must plan carefully for these specific periods.

In order to experience successful and fluent reading in the FET phase, the process of modeling should already start in grade 4. Research has proven time and time again that children who are read to and told stories from an early age successfully master the decoding process and read fluently much sooner.

Reading development therefore begins with the first stories a child experiences in his life. Reading stories/literature is a door or bridge to knowledge and should be used to develop children’s language ability and humanity, because it unlocks new knowledge, enriches vocabulary and improves communication skills.

Reading is not mastered once and should be constantly improved through practice. So use the SOS reading guide to walk a reading path with our children.

  • Ria Taylor is the retired deputy principal at Meisies Hoër Paarl. Currently she is a part-time lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Stellenbosch; tutor grade 7 to 12 HT and EAT at Impaq and was a collaborator on the SOS reading guide.