Never in the history of humankind are the language skills of reading and writing more important than in the 21st century. With the introduction of technology, learners need to be highly effective readers and writers to communicate and collaborate with their peers locally and globally.
Not only do 21st-century learners need to communicate effectively, but they also need to think critically about what they read and write. They also need to use language to be creative thinkers and doers.
Foundation Phase educators focus explicitly on teaching their learners to read accurately, but implicitly to comprehend: learners can decode the words on the page and can ‘crack the code’ of language. If these learners are really successful at decoding the words on a page, they develop fluency over time. One of the biggest challenges Intermediate Phase educators face is preparing learners for deeper understanding of text. When learners are reading accurately, but have no comprehension, they are merely ‘barking at text’.
However, to most higher grade educators the accurate reading of words on paper is not enough. Learners need to be able to develop a deeper understanding of what they read. The deeper understanding involves skills such as visualisation, but also being able to identify the perspective of the author and subsequent bias. Only if the learners are reading at this deeper level, are they reading with real understanding and no longer ‘barking at text’.
As soon as learners are at the early stages of fluency, they are ready for the acquisition of comprehension skills, as fluency is the link between word accuracy and comprehension. This normally happens in either Grade 3 or 4. Younger learners who are not yet fluent readers are using all their cognitive abilities to read accurately and will not have the cognitive capacity to think deeply about the words they are reading.
During the Foundation Phase the learners are learning to read. However, once they have mastered the skill of reading accurately and become fluent, they are ready to move to reading to learn.
For learning to be effective, these learners need to be explicitly taught the 11 comprehension strategies. This is in line with the principles of Building Learning Power (BLP). In BLP learners are coached to become masters of learning and through this process become life-long learners.