Learning from the best: reading literacy development practices at a high-performing primary school

  • Lisa Zimmerman UNISA
Keywords: school management, PIRLS 2006, reading literacy development, curriculum implementation


While it is of utmost importance to scrutinise reading literacy development practices at South African schools where learners are failing to progress in their reading development in the primary school years, it is also beneficial to explore the practices and processes in schools where learners successfully develop reading literacy in depth. In this paper, the processes and practices for reading literacy development in a school with a high Grade 4 class average performance from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006 are explored in detail. The school had the highest Grade 4 class average performance of six purposively selected case study schools with varying contexts and performance levels aligned to achievement benchmarks from the PIRLS 2006. Data were collected from multiple sources for this case study as part of a larger mixed methods study. In this article, however, only interviews with teachers and the Foundation and Intermediate Phase literacy leaders at the school are reported and reflected on. Specifically, school-level reading literacy development initiatives in the form of planning, monitoring and collaboration, across-grade and -phase reading literacy programme coordination, and parental involvement strategies are discussed. Socioeconomic realities and historical inequalities play a huge role in learner performance across schools in South Africa. Although this specific school, which features pre-primary, primary and high school grades, is highly privileged, which likely also plays a role in the learners’ achievement, the reading literacy development processes and practices implemented at the school can be learnt from and applied in less privileged contexts.


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Author Biography

Lisa Zimmerman, UNISA
Lisa Zimmerman is a Senior Lecturer at the University of South Africa. Email zimmel@unisa.ac.za