Newsletter 138 - Research 6/7 - Early Grade Reading in African Languages
Investigating the Comprehension Iceberg: Developing empirical benchmarks for early grade reading in agglutinating African languages by Nic Spaull (RESEP), Elizabeth Pretorius (UNISA), Nompumelelo Mohohlwane(DBE) RESEP, Stellenbosch University UKFIET 2017 4 Sept 20
- Falling at the first hurdle
- 27% of the learners at the start of Grade 3 were getting every second letter-sound incorrect. 25% of the sample could only correctly sound out 15 letters in a minute. This is insurmountable.
- Accuracy thresholds differ by language
- Children reading with 95% accuracy or higher can read 51+ wcpm in N.Sotho; 31+ wcpm in Xitsonga; 21+ wcpm in isiZulu
- Minimum fluency thresholds (very similar to accuracy thresholds)
- to get 25% or more on the comprehension questions (Emergent-reader) one would need to be reading at least
- 53 WCPM in Northern-Sotho,
- 39 WCPM in Xitsonga and
- 20 WCPM in isiZulu
- Minimum comprehension thresholds
- To get 62,5% or more, then learners need to be reading at least
- 66 WCPM in Northern Sotho,
- 48 WCPM in Xitsonga and
- 32 WCPM in isiZulu.
THE WAY FORWARD
- Differences in word length in the disjunctive and conjunctive orthographies of Northern Sotho and isiZulu respectively affect reading rate. This has important implications for benchmarking and for identifying at-risk readers at different grade levels.
- We need to move beyond a repetitive focus on low comprehension outcomes; this is simply the tip of the iceberg.
- What is lacking is research on the different reading components or the “cognitive-linguistic processes involved in reading” (De Vos et al, 2014) in African languages’
- We need to better understand this cognitive linguistic data generating process for African languages.
- Below the surface there is widespread evidence that most children have not acquired the basic ‘tools’ for reading success – the ability to accurately and fluently decode letters and words and move from an effortful activity to an automated skill