Literacy for All? Using multilingual reading stories for literacy development in a Grade One classroom in the Western Cape

  • Ancyfrida Prosper
  • Vuyokazi Nomlomo University of the Western Cape
Keywords: Literacy, Biliteracy, Multilingual Pedagogical Approach, Grade one, Foundation Phase


This paper reports on a literacy pilot project which investigated the use of multilingual reading books and the pedagogical strategies that were employed by one bilingual teacher and her assistant to teach literacy in a linguistically diverse Grade 1 classroom in a primary school in the Western Cape, South Africa. Data were collected by means of classroom observations and semi-structured interviews to understand the teacher’s literacy instruction, reflecting her understanding of the multilingual pedagogical approach as a means of fostering learners’ biliteracy skills. Through the lens of the social constructivist theory and the notion of biliteracy, this paper argues that bilingual competence does not necessarily translate to biliteracy if the teaching approaches and learning materials are not systematically and adequately used to support learners’ listening, oral, reading and writing skills in different languages in an integrated and holistic manner in multilingual classrooms. It concludes that, despite the progressive South African Language-in-Education Policy which supports additive multilingualism, classroom practices continue to reinforce monolingualism in English, which deprives the majority of learners of meaningful access to literacy in different languages as they do not exploit the socio-cultural and cognitive capital embedded in the learners’ home languages for additive bilingual and biliteracy competence.


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Author Biographies

Ancyfrida Prosper
Ancyfrida Prosper holds an M.Ed degree from the University of the Western Cape.  She is the Director of the Mwanza Regional Centre and a lecturer in the Institute of Continuing Education at the Open University of Tanzania, where she is currently registered for PhD.   Her research interest lies in early literacy and applied linguistics.
Vuyokazi Nomlomo, University of the Western Cape
Vuyokazi Nomlomo is an Associate Professor in the Language Education Department at the University of the Western Cape. Her research interests are in language education, with a special focus on language policy issues, mother tongue and multilingual education. Her research also focuses on early literacy, sociolinguistics, African language studies and teacher education.