Learning to read is foundational to all subsequent learning; yet the majority of South African children are being left behind in this regard. One of the biggest educational challenges facing the country was presented in the much-cited Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which showed in 2006 that more than 80% of Grade 5 learners in a nationally representative sample could not yet read for meaning. Similarly, low levels of literacy proficiency were confirmed by pre-PIRLS in 2011. Early-grade performance strongly predicts secondary school completion. If children do not learn to read effectively by grade 4, they will not cope with curriculum demands in the higher grades. This trajectory is generally understood to be the cause of the high rate of dropouts in grades 10, 11 and 12. This in turn affects the likelihood of learners accessing post-school education opportunities. To address these systemic challenges, BRIDGE has created an Early Grade Reading Community of Practice (EGR CoP), a community which launched on the 25 September 2018.The CoP’s first convening focused on the purpose of the CoP and its long-term goals as connected to BRIDGE’s broader Theory of Change (TOC). That is: to contribute to improving education by creating a common purpose, peer support and trust; by maximising resources and reducing duplication; by linking policy and practice and by sharing and spreading knowledge and practice. Under this broad umbrella, the CoP was asked to think about creating its own TOC and establishing the community’s outcomes. CoP members will shape the CoP to suit their needs and those of the literacy community in order to work towards common goals.
The CoP convenes again on the 14th of November 2018 to discuss what neuroscience can tell us about how learners learn to read. This is but one of the exciting topics slated for discussion in upcoming CoPs. Keep an eye on BRIDGE’s social media platforms for updates!