The gift of reading

Mountain Cambridge School takes pride in teaching children reading and spelling by using teaching methods which are supported by scientific research on how children learn to read and spell.

Anrieke Olivier -Deputy Principle: Foundation Phase, Mountain Cambridge School

A teacher’s knowledge and expertise about reading and spelling plays an important role in your child’s future academic success.

South Africa was ranked last out of 50 countries in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study which tested reading comprehension of learners in the fourth year of primary schooling. At Mountain Cambridge School we don’t want our learners to be victims of poor reading and spelling instruction and offer the children world-class teaching.

Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught. There are many reasons why learners don’t become proficient at reading and spelling. These can include teachers who are not educated in the science of reading, the national curriculum doesn’t support it, class sizes are too big, not enough time is allocated towards teaching reading and spelling or teachers and school managers are resisting change. Very often, teachers pass on their responsibility to teach reading and spelling by referring learners to extra classes or computer-based reading programmes. Very often learners are promoted to the next grade who cannot properly read and write or cannot read with comprehension. Some learners do learn to read despite a lack of efficient teaching, however, they often don’t fare as well as they could, especially when measured against international benchmarking.

Research has proven that while the brain is wired to automatically learn spoken language, the brain is NOT wired for reading and writing. This is because written language is a human invention. Children need to develop skills to make sense of this ‘secret code’ of text. Children are not born with the ability to crack the code by themselves. Mountain Cambridge School takes lead in teaching reading and writing in a systematic and explicit way.

This is in contrast with the approach used by most other schools which support teaching of sight words as part of a balanced approach. Such traditional approaches focus on so called ‘sight words’ when it is expected from learners to memorise words by repetition. Since the brain has its limitations on how much it can memorise, this approach let learners feel frustrated and unsuccessful as they start guessing words instead of reading them with accuracy. This also results in learners not being able to read with fluency and lack sufficient comprehension of what they are reading. Unfortunately, this approach leads to learners who do not love reading and cannot use their reading skills to learn efficiently.

It is time to stop debating how to teach children to read and spell and follow scientific evidence. Memorising words and guessing are not reading skills.

The scientific information should make you think twice. If a child memorises ten words, the child can read only those ten words. On the other hand, if the child learns the sounds of ten letters the child could read 26320 words. At Mountain Cambridge School we know the value of teaching letter-and-sound correspondence and develop skills such as of blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation. All of this to ensure success in reading.

Mountain Cambridge School is proactive by already laying the foundational skills in the Pre-primary grades to ensure learners are ready to access reading and writing. Our Foundation Phase teachers agree with Kate Dicamillo who said “Reading should not be presented as a chore, or a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” At Mountain Cambridge School we want to give learners the gift of becoming successful readers. We have a wonderful library and we can see how their love of reading grows.

We would like to invite parents and learners to visit us on our open day to find out more about the teaching and learning methods at Mountain Cambridge School.