Original Research - Special Collection: Interrogating Coloniality in South African Primary Schools

Moving beyond a balanced approach to reading instruction – In search of a contextualised alternative

Zelda Barends, Chris Reddy
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 14, No 1 | a1528 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v14i1.1528 | © 2024 Zelda Barends, Chris Reddy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 February 2024 | Published: 21 May 2024

About the author(s)

Zelda Barends, Department of Curriculum Studies, Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Chris Reddy, Department of Curriculum Studies, Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Background: The teaching of reading or reading instruction has largely been carried out in terms of well-developed pedagogies in the field. These pedagogical approaches are, however, derived from research and development in a broad international context, and are often adopted by and implemented in various country settings. Given the contextual variation and resource disparities in South Africa, we feel such settings where approaches are adopted and used to represent a ‘one size fits all’ approach can be less than ideal.

Aim: To explore scientific approaches to reading instruction as alternative approaches that are context specific.

Setting: This article questions reading instruction as prescribed in the National Curriculum of South Africa.

Methods: A conceptual review of literature was conducted to distil and propose alternatives to the dominant discourses for reading instruction.

Results: Given the resource disparities and contextual variations, we argue for and propose a structured approach to reading instruction.

Conclusion: Such an alternative should consider scientific evidence, and the teaching of reading needs to be explicit and systematic as well as contextually relevant. We believe it holds promise for improvement in literacy rates as it provides flexible and adaptable approaches.

Contribution: We advocate for an alternative approach to reading instruction that is grounded in scientific evidence and emphasises explicit, systematic, and contextually relevant instruction.


teaching of reading; reading instruction; approaches to reading instruction; early learning; balanced approach to reading.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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