The struggling reader: Identifying and addressing reading problems successfully at an early stage

  • Michael Le Cordeur


The standard of reading of learners in the intermediate phase is cause for considerable concern. In this article, the intermediate phase refers to grades 4, 5 and 6 (roughly ages 10 – 12). According to the 2008 Evaluation Assessment Tests for Reading, only 15% of learners in Grade 6 achieved the required literacy level. Clearly, reading achievement is a problem in South Africa. Although approximately 4% of any given population experience neurological reading problems, the focus of this article is on the significant number of learners in the intermediate phase who experience reading problems and the generic causes of reading problems for learners in general. The intent is to alert teachers and parents to the characteristics of a struggling reader so that the problem can be identified and addressed early. Firstly, ways in which learning problems are manifested are described. Secondly, a discussion of various types of reading problems, of which four, namely poor reading comprehension, inadequate reading fluency, a lack of vocabulary and a negative attitude towards reading, are discussed in depth. Strategies for struggling readers are presented and recommendations are made. The conclusion is that learners who experience reading problems can learn to read successfully when given the necessary support.

Author Biography

Michael Le Cordeur
Dr Michael le Cordeur is lecturing Afrikaans Didactics at Stellenbosch University. He completed the PhD-degree at Stellenbosch University and also holds qualifications from the University of the Western Cape, UNISA and Stellenbosch University’s Graduate School of Business. His research deals with the improvement of learners’ reading and writing skills by using information technology and the media.  E-mail address:
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