All State Senior Officials
Non-Governmental Organisations Leadership
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for coming to attend this very important gathering, the 1st Reading Roundtable Discussion. It is indeed a pleasure to have you all. Our theme today is, “Schools making a contribution in getting the nation to read”
In pursuit of realising our long term goal “A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation, this Reading Roundtable is an initiative towards empowering communities and schools in particular to start a Reading Revolution. Throughout the world, school education systems are focusing on literacy and numeracy initiatives as a means to improving the performance and learning outcomes. A learner’s ability to read, write and calculate is considered a vital toolkit in the pursuit of success and in managing life in general.
“Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection,” said former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Council (UNESCO) has declared literacy as a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. The outcome of a good quality basic education is to equip learners with literacy skills for life and further learning.
Literacy impacts on society in several ways namely, literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines reading literacy as “understanding, using, and reflecting on written texts, in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate in society”. Research conducted by the International Reading Association identified and explored key factors that contribute to a culture of literacy such as
- A supportive environment in which literacy skills can be practiced and encouraged;
- Training in the skills needed to read, write and use of information in everyday life;
- Motivation, incentives and support to practice literacy skills learnt not only within the formal curriculum but also at work, in families, in institutions, on the street and in the community; and
- Investment in policy, training, and the production of appropriate materials that is culturally and linguistically sensitive to the various members of the community.
There are ten critical factors that impact in developing and promoting a culture of literacy namely:
- Access to materials;
- The importance of people owning their own books;
- Alternative agencies that supply books if they are beyond the means of people;
- A national reading policy;
- Advocacy materials for child and adult literacy;
- Training models and materials for teaching literacy and reading;
- Co-operation between agencies and programmes;
- The importance of print literacy in contemporary society;
- Government promotion of a culture of literacy; and
- The role of libraries.
Libraries are seen as a key player because they have a role in almost all of these literacy factors, from access to materials and training to promotion and cooperation. The role of libraries with regard to the promotion of literacy and reading is largely construed as marketing reading material and the reading experience in order to convince people to read and use these materials.
The related term, reading development focuses more on the individual with regard to increasing one’s confidence and enjoyment of reading, to expand reading choices and to provide opportunities for sharing the reading experience and to support reading as a creative activity.
“Literacy is not, as it is considered in our schools, a portion of education. It is education. It is at once the ability and the inclination of the mind to find knowledge, to pursue understanding, and out of knowledge and understanding to make judgments.” Richard Mitchell
The International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (1998) confirm that the first eight years of a child's life are the most important years for literacy development and those developmentally appropriate practices at home and at school are crucial for ensuring that children become successful readers. Literacy-rich environments, both at home and at school, are important in promoting literacy and preventing reading difficulties. In literacy-rich home environments, parents and caregivers provide children with occasions for daily reading, extended discourse (extensive talking or writing). In literacy-rich classrooms, teachers incorporate the characteristics of literacy-rich home environments, and use grouping for learning, developmentally appropriate practices and literacy routines. In addition, they have classroom designs that continue to encourage reading and writing learning centres and engaged learning activities.
Programme Director, a reflection of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) efforts to promote a culture of reading in schools dates back to 2006 when the following initiatives were implemented in response to the findings of national and international reading assessments. These include:
- Drop All and Read Campaign;
- 100 Story book project;
- National Reading Strategy;
- Foundations for Learning Campaign;
- Piloting of Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA);
- DBE Workbook project;
- Annual National Assessments (ANA) and
- National Catalogue for Grades 1 to 12.
Subsequently, after the release of the National Education and Evaluation Unit (NEEDU) report on the State of Literacy Teaching in the Foundation Phase, the Ministerial Reading Audit Report and the 2011 Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS), I was convinced that the Sector needed to rejuvenate its reading initiatives hence, I declared Reading promotion and the Library and Information Services a national priority. Currently the following reading initiatives have been put in place:
- Resuscitation of the “Drop All and Read” programme. In the early grades “Drop All and Read” is better known as the “Read me a Book” campaign;
- The development of DBE Reading Series which is modeled along the same lines as the Workbook project.
- In June 2015, 1000 schools offering Grades 1-3 will be implementing the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA). The EGRA is an international benchmarked assessment which assesses reading proficiency through letter sound recognition, word recognition and passage reading;
- The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) gives high weighting to reading and writing skills in Grades R to 12;
- In addition the National Reading Plan prescribes the implementation of reading norms for Grades R-12; and
- The establishment of 1000 fully functional school libraries, commencing in 2015.
Going forward there is a huge body of research that concludes that the main thrust of literacy development is the promotion of a school-wide reading culture which encourages learners to become engaged and motivated readers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, starting on Wednesday, 1 April 2015, I will launch the Drop All and Read programme, here at the Department of Basic Education. I have taken the decision to make Drop All and Read a mandatory activity by granting the entire DBE staff to engage in 30 minutes of pleasure reading from 12:00 to 12:30 on the first Wednesday of the month.
Programme Director, in my engagements with principals their response to a turnaround strategy always relates to a robust school reading programme. So, let us look at what needs to be done to make schools reading hubs? The first requirement is the commitment of the principal and staff and the collaboration between school and local public library. To create a reading culture the principal and staff need to:
- Understand the impact of reading on learner achievement;
- Have a shared vision of the school's reading culture;
- Know what an engaged reader looks like;
- Fully support the library and its resources, services and programmes; and
- Value the impact of reading for pleasure.
Two international studies involving New Zealand learners have shown that Year 5 learners with the most positive attitudes toward reading generally had the highest reading achievement. And 15 year old learners who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of 1.5 years of schooling better than those who do not. Research from the University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE) found learners between the ages of 10-16 who read for pleasure made significantly more progress in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics than learners who rarely read.
Reading researchers, Dr Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown found that:
“Reading for pleasure was more important for children's cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents' level of education. The combined effect on children's progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.”
In the short term, I am encouraging schools to do the following:
· Book Displays in foyers, corridors and principal’s office;
· Signs on display boards with quotes about reading;
· Notices of reading events;
· Photographs of children reading, staff reading and other reading role models;
· The principal's recommended "book of the week";
· Promotion of the public library;
· Celebration of reading events such as National Library Week, National Book Week, Readathon Week etc.
In the principal's office there should be evidence of:
· A selection of favourite children's books, learner’s work about reading, books for parents about helping children become readers; and
· Photographs of principal reading during school-wide Drop All and Read Programme.
In the school staffroom there should be evidence of:
· Information from the library, and promotion, about new and interesting resources;
· Notices promoting professional development for staff on children’s' / young adult literature; and
· Notice board with information about reading events, must-reads, awards and recommended read aloud(s).
In the classrooms there should be evidence of:
· Reading aloud and storytelling every day;
· A structured daily reading hour;
· Plenty of books on display in the reading corner;
· Opportunities for learners to share their reading through book discussions and reviews; and
· Learner engagement of what they have read last, what they are reading now, what they are going to read next.
I must emphasise that the school library is at the heart of the school's reading culture. Mr. Harold Howe, former US Commissioner of Education made this assertion about libraries:
"What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education."
Where schools have libraries, the School librarian and principal can help instill a reading culture by ensuring that the:
· Library is well-resourced, well-staffed, well-used and is a vital catalyst for the reading culture of a school;
· Teachers collaborate with the librarian/s and use the library as an essential resource for their literacy programmes ;
· Library staff encourage learners' development as readers, through the library's environment, resources and services;
· Library is included in visitors’ tours of the school;
· Library is used to host reading events; and
· Library is included in the teachers’ lunch time duty rosters.
Here are some other creative ways of promoting reading in schools:
· Having teachers and learners promoting books at assembly regularly and enthusiastically;
· Mentioning popular books and authors;
· Discussing the importance of reading at school gatherings or events such as prize giving, parent/teacher interviews, etc.;
· Regular reading and book celebrations; not just once a year in book week, but each term hold an event or activity to promote reading;
· Encouraging guest speakers (including sports people, entertainers, parents ) to discuss the importance of reading and the role of reading in their lives;
· Inviting writers, illustrators, storytellers, librarians, and book enthusiasts to talk about books and perform to the learners;
· Displaying information on the school's website, intranet, blog, library home page about reading,
· Getting learners to participate online in appropriate forums, reading competitions, learner writing sites and book review sites
· Publishing articles in the local paper about the school's focus on reading, reading events and library developments; and
· Links between the school and public library namely class visits, block book loans.
Programme Director, may I take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to all our social partners who have contributed towards reading and literacy development through the provisioning of reading resources ,setting up of different models of libraries and in addition the establishment of reading clubs and book clubs.
It is my ardent wish to ensure that every school “puts a book in every child’s hands” so that we accomplish the national goal “A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation.” I am inviting all schools to start the Reading Revolution! This must be done by simply planning an ambitious reading event not once a year but every term.
In conclusion, I am inviting all our social partners to support schools to initiate the Reading revolution. Together we must strive to create 'Reading Schools' where learners talk and inspire each other about books, talk about authors - one child to another without the teacher necessarily being involved.
I thank you.