September is literacy month and a time to reflect on the fact that after 24 years of democracy, the great majority of our young children are not able to read, or understand what they read. … This is not government’s problem alone – it is every South African’s problem. It is the one thing that this country must get right. With millions of children in this country not learning to read and write successfully, what hope do we have of a better future?’
In our latest newsletter, read Shelley O’Carroll’s thought-provoking piece on the literacy crisis we face in South Africa. We also share some inspiring photos, news and tips from our Home-School Partnerships Programme – one way in which dedicated teachers and parents are facing up to this challenge.
Enjoy the read!
We were proud to share our learning about early literacy materials development in isiXhosa at the 2018 UWC Conference on Early Childhood Literacy Development. We also attended the launch of a book from last year’s conference: From Words to Ideas: The role of literacy in enhancing young children’s development.
Shelley O’Carroll and Isabella Hugow, together with Arnold Matzdorff, contributed a chapter to this book entitled ‘Assessment of Early Literacy development in under-resourced communities in South Africa’.
To order a copy of the book, email Prof Vuyokazi Nomlomo at UWC – firstname.lastname@example.org (R150 a copy).
There are so many women who have contributed to early literacy through our programmes with great dedication and passion! We are not able to introduce all of them, but we know that those who we have featured will inspire you.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the really exciting and intense discussion about the important issue of learning to read in African languages hosted by Education Fishtank and Funda Wande in June. The panel represented a wide range of expertise, experience and passion in the field.
Big themes included: how language and power are interlinked; the complexity and necessity of standardising languages; validating non-standard language use in homes and classrooms; encouraging bi-literacy; the need for local research that informs teaching practice; the importance of looking at literacy beyond the classroom context.
At certain points the discussion drew on linguistics and focussed in on the structure and orthography of different African languages and the implications for teaching and assessing reading development. Panellists agreed that dramatic swings in curricula over the past decades have undermined teachers’ confidence and professional agency.
There was also a strong sense that an integrated and balanced approach to the teaching of early language and literacy was needed, as opposed to the staged learning of distinct skills. A strong case was made for valuing oral storytelling, songs and rhymes in the teaching of reading and writing, and the need for more books in African languages to ensure that children have opportunities for meaningful engagement with plentiful and rich texts.
The panel was united in supporting collaboration between role players in the interests of tackling a catastrophic failure of our system to teach children to read with meaning and to express their ideas in writing.
‘A parent is a child’s first teacher.’ Parents in the Langeberg are being encouraged by their children’s ECD teachers to create informal learning opportunities with their young children at home, using the Wordworks Home-School Partnerships Programme.”
In the March edition of our newsletter we have exciting news about the launch of a Wordworks App for parents, caregivers and teachers of babies and young children. We also share a link to a new booklet that shows you how to make inexpensive resources for babies and toddlers to support language development and make learning fun. We feature an early literacy champion in the Eastern Cape, who is working tirelessly in her community to share knowledge and practical ideas for supporting early language development.
Enjoy the read!
Would you like to know more about how to talk, play, sing and share books with babies and young children? Or how to support their drawing and early writing? Did you know that you can enjoy maths with young children through everyday activities?
If you would like to know more, download the free Wordworks App with these practical and engaging features:
Content for birth to 2 years, and 3-5 years
> New ideas and activities to build language and support early learning
> Positive and encouraging words to use with babies and young children
> Inspirational messages for parents and carers
> Demonstration videos
> Stories to tell young children
> Songs and rhymes
> Health messages for the first 1000 days
For more info on the app, please click on this link: Wordworks App Leaflet
Search for WORDWORKS in the Play Store or use this link.
17 participants from eight NGOs working in the Western Cape have completed a series of nine monthly Every Word Counts (EWC) training sessions. They are from Capespan, Foundation for Community Work, GCU, Philani, Sikhula Sonke, Unogwaja Charitable Fund, Valley Development Projects, and Yumna First Steps.
These NGOs are sharing EWC with home visitors, in parent groups, with ECD practitioners, and using the ideas and activities with children. Our last training day was filled with highlights – experiencing the close connections we have developed as a group over the past year, sharing our learning with each other and invited guests, and receiving lots of lovely resources to encourage young children to have fun learning maths concepts.
Here Lusanda Stemele and Mercedes Artigue-Beatty from Unogwaja Charitable Fund in Langa share their highlights of the training.
These partners will continue to be connected to us as members of our WordNetworks and receive support from the team as they share EWC with new groups of parents, home visitors and ECD practitioners.
Read more about EWC – supporting the learning of babies and young children – on our website.
Wordworks Director Shelley O’ Carroll’s opinion piece in the Mail & Guardian is a response to the recent PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) report. South Africa was placed at the bottom of 50 participating countries in reading, with 78% of Grade 4 students not being able to read for meaning.
Volunteer tutors celebrated for their support of young children learning to read and write
60 Co-ordinators of Wordworks’ Ready Steady Read Write (RSRW) programme gathered this week to celebrate another successful year of running this early literacy programme at schools and organisations.
These community volunteers, trained by Wordworks managed over 300 volunteer tutors at more than 50 RSRW sites across the Cape Metro and in the West Coast. This annual event is to thank these literacy champions, who give freely of their time, for their unwavering commitment to the programme.
At this heart-warming event, motivational speaker, Heidi Volkwyn and singer, Phillip Cornelius, reminded the tutors that they are true heroes to the learners whose lives they are changing for the better, thanks to their loving and focused attention.
Coordinators Diane Links, Mareldia Bressick and Guswill Cleophas shared their uplifting experiences of the sometimes challenging, but immensely rewarding journey of running the programme at their sites this year.
See our Facebook page for an album of pictures taken at this event.