Teaching reading and changing a life: Mihlali's story

  • Renee R Nathanson Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Literacy intervention, reading strategies, writing process, complex theory, continuous texts, text gradient, constructive processes, Reading Recovery


This article provides a narrative account of a literacy intervention I provided for an isiXhosa boy in Grade 1 who was struggling to read and write. The article first discusses the assumptions on which the intervention was based. These are: learning to read is a constructive rather than a mechanical process; educators who teach reading need to recognise the complexity of the reading process from the beginning of instruction, because even young children need to orchestrate complex mental operations when they start learning to read; and instruction should be based on close and systematic observation of what a child can do as a reader and writer and it should provide massive opportunities to read and write continuous texts. Next, the article explains how these principles were put into practice in the intervention. The aim of the article is to describe the theoretical principles underlying a one-on-one intervention based on the research undertaken by a core group of Reading Recovery theorists. It explains how that reading failure can be overcome through teaching that supports strategic reading. Its overall purpose is to contribute to an existing body of knowledge by providing insights that can help low-achieving readers make accelerated progress and catch up with their peers.

Author Biography

Renee R Nathanson, Stellenbosch University
Dr Renee Nathanson is a lecturer in the Division of English at Stellenbosch University. Her main research interests are future oriented teaching and learning, literacy instruction and the use of digital technologies in education.