Reading Support Programme in Rural North West Province

The Reading Support Programme is a four-year initiative focusing on the development of reading skills, working hand in hand with Principals, Curriculum Advisors and Heads of Departments of Foundation Phase in the primary schools in the North West province.  Saide’s role has largely been in the customisation of the Learning and Teaching Support Material and arranging the printing and dissemination of considerable quantities of stories, products of our African Storybook Initiative.

The  Project was piloted in the Ruth Mompati District of the North West Province in South Africa. The main goal of the project was to improve the reading skills of primary grade learners in African Home Languages (AHLs), as well as in English as a first additional language (EFAL). We believe that if all Foundation Phase educators (including Subject Advisors [SAs], Department Heads [DHs] and educators) are supported in language and literacy content knowledge and pedagogy, they can dramatically improve reading skills of primary grade learners. We believe this is true for AHL and for EFAL.

The primary way that we supported educators in the Reading Support Project was through a course for teaching early reading. This course was offered on a tablet which gave participants online and offline access to the course and other resources which included digital graded readers and supplementary readers in AHL and EFAL. Each school also received a number of printed readers and storybooks for use in the classroom.

A further resource was the development of the Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) Handbook and associated videos. The purpose of the Handbook is to provide opportunities and examples for Foundation Phase subject advisors and department heads to apply in practice what was explored in the Reading Support Project course, and to support educators to use readers and storybooks in their teaching of reading. This handbook is freely available to teachers even if they haven’t done the Reading Support Project course.

The set of good practice videos were made at three of the schools that were participating in the reading course, namely Kgato-Ntle Primary, Othaile Primary and Lokgabeng Primary.

The videos are open educational resources and are freely available on the African Storybook Youtube channel:

One of the first tasks that Saide undertook for all three districts was to select storybooks from the collection on our African Storybook website to support the graded readers that were being provided to project schools by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. We had to arrange the printing of 130 000 books for 200 schools, for three grades and in five languages. We engaged the support of a print procurement company for the printing and distribution process. All the books were uniquely coded and had to be carefully packaged to differentiate hub, school, grade and language. The distribution of the books took place in early 2018 with a 98% delivery success rate.

The pilot concluded in August this year with a handover of the final LTSM Handbook and copies of the videos on memory sticks to district officials and the three teachers who participated in the good practice videos.