Reading in a second language: Considering the "simple view of reading" as a foundation to support ESL readers in Lesotho, Southern Africa

  • Annalene van Staden
Keywords: ESL learners, “simple view of reading”-model, word decoding, vocabulary, reading comprehension


Globally, reading proficiency has been a major area of difficulty for English second-language (ESL) learners. This research inter alia utilised a quantitative, quasi-experimental, pre-test/post-test research design to address the paucity of evidence-based second-language reading research internationally, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Lesotho in particular; and to determine if second-language learners (L2) in the experimental group can improve their L2 reading abilities after being exposed to reading intervention strategies, based on the “simple view of reading”. Drawing from both psycholinguistic and cognitive linguistic principles, the authors considered this as a working model to develop reading strategies to support ESL learners in Lesotho who experienced significant delays in L2 reading abilities and comprehension. In the present study, strategies based on the “simple view of reading”, , included, inter alia, effective language exposure, building a rich vocabulary, improving reading fluency and word recognition abilities, and creating socio-linguistic opportunities to develop vocabulary and enhance reading comprehension (for example, creating a “word wall”, interactive story-book reading and the application of the ReQuest reading method). Results from this quantitative study demonstrated that Grade 4 ESL learners in the experimental group (N=36) significantly outperformed those in the control group (N=36) with regard to sight word fluency, word recognition, syntactic awareness, vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension.  As we move forward in an attempt to understand the nuances of creating a responsive reading environment to support ESL learners’ reading development, assessing the effectiveness of strategies to improve their reading skills is essential.

Author Biography

Annalene van Staden
Annalene van Staden is a senior lecturer/researcher in the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State (UFS), South Africa. She obtained her PhD in 2006 in the department Psychology of Education, UFS.  Her research interests/area of specialisation is Psycho-linguistics. She is currently the grant holder of a research project financed by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (CPRR grant for rated researchers), entitled the “Cognitive-linguistic processing of learners with typical and atypical patterns of development”.