Reading is FUNdamental: The effect of a reading programme on vocabulary development in a high poverty township school

Ruth Scheepers

Abstract


This paper discusses the development of the vocabulary of grade 7 learners in a reading project currently underway at a school in Atteridgeville, a township on the outskirts of Pretoria. A library has been established at the school and teachers throughout the school attend workshops designed to heighten their awareness of the value of reading and the importance of vocabulary, and to provide them with strategies to facilitate the development of reading. This paper focuses on the vocabulary development of grade 7 learners – they are in the senior phase of primary school and will soon be entering high school where they will be faced with more academic vocabulary in context-reduced textbooks. Learners’ vocabulary was tested early in the year and then again towards the end to assess whether increased access to books and reading had had an effect on vocabulary growth. Results revealed that learners at the project school showed a lack of vocabulary, even at the end of the study period, not only in terms of academic words but also high frequency words. Extensive reading alone is clearly not enough – learners need explicit vocabulary instruction: in order to read successfully at high school level, learners need a working knowledge of academic vocabulary, and this knowledge is developed by reading – but learners cannot read successfully without an adequate basic high-frequency vocabulary.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/24-1-38

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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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