The achievement of grade 3 learners’ higher order reading skills on a children’s literature-based reading programme
The Western Cape Education Department’s Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2006-2016 refers to the 2002 assessment (WCED, 2006) of Grade 3 learners. This study found that only 36% of learners were achieving the reading and numeracy outcomes expected of a Grade 3 learner. The vast majority of learners were underperforming two to three years below expectation (WCED Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2006-2016). South African learners’ performance in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS 2006) assessment reinforces the need for reading instruction practices aimed at addressing the difficulties in language and reading in both the Foundation and Intermediate Phases. It was against this background that I wanted to investigate the value and impact of a children's literature - based reading programme, as the importance of independent and critical reading at the primary level cannot be over estimated. PIRLS, (2006) highlights the areas of low achievement of South African learners by referring to the twelve reading skills and strategies identified by current research as central to the learning of reading. South Africa lags behind in introducing these critical skills. I argue for the inclusion of an alternative reading programme to the phonics only approach currently and predominantly used in Foundation Phase. Social constructivists see as crucial, both the context in which learning occurs and the social context that learners bring to their learning environment. This theoretical framework, as well as the Reader Response theory of Rosenblatt (1982) underpins this study. Relevant cognitive theories and their underpinnings in reading motivation and achievement are reviewed. The literature review is an in-depth study of recent and current reading research. The main aspects covered by the literature are literacy skills, language acquisition and its related skills. The study is lodged in a qualitative paradigm and embedded in action research. The analysis is framed in constructivist grounded theory. The quantitative data collected support the qualitative data and enhance the validity of the findings that indicate that the study of literature is effective in developing higher order thinking skills identified by Bloom (1956) and present in the PIRLS (2006) test methodology.