The importance of the level of literacy in Grade 4
It is important to know what the level of literacy of Grade 4 Learners is, as they have completed Grades 1 to 3, during which time they were taught to read.
This is the year they start to write formal examinations. UNESCO lists South Africa as having a literacy rate of 93%, but that does not mean more than being able to identify words. It does not address their reading for understanding, which is what we want to know regarding our Grade 4 learners.
To be able to cope in Grade 12, a learner has to be able to read like a 12-year old (yes, unbelievable). I have in recent years done diagnostic reading tests with Grade 12 learners, who read like 9-year old learners. Difficult to believe? Yet, true. How on earth are they supposed to pass at the end of the year?
A learner has to be able to understand the question in a paper, analyze it, break it apart to determine exactly what is being required as an answer, and then start to compose an understandable, thorough answer.
The ability to read with understanding is, therefore, crucial from Grade 4 onwards.
In a “TIMES Live” article of 6 December 2017, it was stated that “South Africa was placed last out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which included nearly 320‚000 children globally.
The survey also found that reading scores have not improved since 2011.”
In England and Chile, the situation is even worse. A University of Pretoria literacy expert, Celeste Combrinck, said that 8 of 10 Grade 4 learners in South Africa can still not read at an appropriate level.
From Grade 4 to Grade 12 learners do not learn to read anymore, they read to learn.
Need I point out how important it is for a child to be able to read functionally by Grade 4? How can we expect our children to perform and obtain good marks if they cannot understand what they are reading? Is it a wonder that many of them do not manage to complete the exam paper? It takes too long to understand the question for them to answer it as well.