A recent survey by the UN children’s agency Unicef highlights how reading and storytelling are neglected in many SA households.
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The Unicef research comes close behind the findings of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) 2021, which observed that 81% of SA’s grade 4 children could not read for meaning.
Reading for meaning refers to the ability to extract, discuss and understand the meaning from a section of a text and not just pronouncing the words correctly. It is an important skill a pupil needs to acquire to progress through the school curriculum.
The research is, however, limited and narrow as it focused on a particular grade.
I believe reading for meaning, critical thinking and the lack of general knowledge are a grave concern for all teachers as a whole across all schools and grades.
Most schools, teachers and parents motivate pupils to read good novels or books to improve vocabulary, etc., but reading publications in the form of high-quality and objective newspapers like The Witness must also be encouraged.
Newspapers contain the whole kit and caboodle and are necessary for pupils to engage with as this enhances a lot more than just reading skills. Newspapers have a separate or different benefit over books since newspapers provide relevant, current, wide-ranging readings, analyses, news and write-ups on local, national and international matters.
Reading unbiased newspapers helps widen pupils’ outlook on life and enriches their knowledge base. It provides important, significant and thought-provoking insights on world news.
Newspapers have crosswords, general knowledge, economic conditions, job opportunities, health care, entertainment, fashion and environment pieces, etc. Factual and journalistic reporting and other artistic writing encourages critical thinking and creative ideas within pupils.
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Paulo Freire, an influential Brazilian educationalist, talked about learning to “read” so that one can read the “world”. Freire believes “reading is not simply decoding text or recognising whole words. Reading is context, and reading requires context — a context that is far more than letters, sounds, words, sentences and paragraphs.”
Hence, by reading, especially newspapers, pupils will be able to rewrite what they read as by using Freire’s philosophy about reading, newspapers will help them to contextualise, visualise, interpret and critically observe the written word, as newspapers report on stories that they are familiar with and can see in real life.
Journalists create awareness by reporting on happening around us and other goings-on around the globe.
Accordingly, newspapers aid the improvement of reading habits, knowledge, and creativity. They can be part of good learning patterns for pupils in the different areas of knowledge, especially the improvement of language and general knowledge. South Africa is a developing nation with many different race groups, nationalities, languages and religious communities whose desire is too live and co-exist together in this beautiful country.
Reading and newspaper literacy have an important role in nation- building, healing and reconciliation, and understanding the different shades, multicultural and multi-dimensional construct in South Africa and around the globe.
Newspaper reading is educational, interesting, relevant and an important source of information that should be nurtured in all pupils.
Like novels and other fiction and non-fiction books, newspapers are good and effective resources for the young impressionable minds of school pupils. Essential life skills, attitudes and values are communicated through newspaper editorial pieces which help with the development of intellectual and mental faculties.
I urge parents, as well as schools, to instill and encourage newspaper reading among their pupils and inspire them to make reading a lifelong habit.
The youth are exposed to all sorts of graphic realities facing our nation and by reading quality and fact-based newspapers, they may be inspired to be active civic participants to uplift our communities and the country.
Today, with the increasing and noticeable “easy parenting” practices, reading newspapers can be an interesting and healthy activity to pursue as families spend quality time together.
A well-read individual can exercise wisdom and problem-solving abilities to ultimately benefit humanity. Newspapers can redefine our consciousness and sensitize us to aspects of social awareness.