There are many challenges associated with teaching literacy to poor children from previously disadvantaged communities who do not speak English at home. Learning to read is not always as easy as parents and other adults may think. For the small minority, learning to read seems effortless. However, the majority of children in the Lanseria area struggle to learn and to master this skill.
Research suggests that children who are literate in their home language will find it easier to learn a second language. The problem in the Lanseria area is that most adults are not literate in their home language and, often, parents speak two different African languages, resulting in children going to school in grade R with very poor language skills and vocabulary.
Ripple Reading believes that teaching these children to read takes a special approach and a lot of effort. And so the arduous road to improving literacy scores in the Lanseria area begins.
Instruction for these learners must be adjusted and they have to be accommodated in order to become literate. Children who are struggling to read need additional work on English phonemes (speech sounds that distinguish one word from another) and extra practice when it comes to reading words and sentences.
Phonemic awareness is difficult because they may not yet have enough experience with English to be able to distinguish sounds that differ from those of their native language. Children cannot develop phonological awareness in English until they are familiar with the actual sounds of English. Explicit instruction is needed for sounds that either don’t exist in the native language, or sounds that are perceived as different in English but the same in the native language. These differences vary from one language to another.
The high learner-to-teacher ratio in our schools makes it impossible for teachers to intervene with special one-on-one remedial lessons. Obviously, teaching non-English speaking children to read and write cannot be done by inexperienced staff or inexperienced volunteers.
Given the need for extra practice to learn to hear and produce the sounds of English, to learn the meanings of the words used in phonics instruction, to learn the multiple combinations of letters that make the same sound, and to learn many more sight words than English speakers need, additional time for phonics instruction should be built into reading at school and this cannot be done if programmes such as Ripple Reading do not exist.