Reading to Learn: A literature review within a South African context

  • Tracey Jane Millin Department of General Linguistics Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Academic literacy, reading to learn, academic reading and writing pedagogies, genre pedagogy, scaffolded learning


Academic literacy development within the secondary schooling system in South Africa has reached crisis proportions, with a large number of students exiting the system unable to function adequately within the tertiary sector or labour market. Attempts to remedy this crisis by introducing curriculum reform over the past few years have yielded little success, with universities having to take on the literacy problem by offering a variety of remedial programmes to ensure that students are equipped to access learning and succeed at their studies. Research shows that most literacy intervention programs at universities appear to favour a more traditional approach to English academic language development by focusing on grammatical rules, sentence structure, spelling and punctuation. This bottom-up approach does not necessarily equip students with the skills needed to write coherent and cohesive extended pieces of writing as required by university assessment processes. For this reason, the Reading to Learn (RtL) methodology was chosen to be implemented within a writing module at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and within selected Grade 11 classes in the Winelands District in an attempt to find an alternative approach to academic literacy development. The purpose of this article is to offer a comprehensive synthesis of some of the theoretical assumptions of RtL as well as its practical implementation before embarking on an evaluative study of this methodology in future papers. In doing so, this article offers a brief discussion on academic literacy pedagogies and situates RtL within these frameworks. This is followed by a synthesis of the practical implementation of RtL and a discussion of the works of Halliday (1989, 1996), Vygotsky (1978) and Bernstein (1990, 1996) which have had an influence on the development of RtL.


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Author Biography

Tracey Jane Millin, Department of General Linguistics Stellenbosch University
Tracey is a PhD student in the Department of General Linguistics at Stellenbosch University. She is also lecturing part-time on the PGCE programme at Stellenbosch University, in the Faculty of Education.