Original Research

Literacy development of English language learners: The outcomes of an intervention programme in grade R

Anna-Mari Olivier, Christine Anthonissen, Frenette Southwood
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 57, No 1 | a50 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v57i1.50 | © 2010 Anna-Mari Olivier, Christine Anthonissen, Frenette Southwood | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 February 2010 | Published: 10 December 2010

About the author(s)

Anna-Mari Olivier, Department of General Linguistics, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Christine Anthonissen, Department of General Linguistics, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Frenette Southwood, Department of General Linguistics, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

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This study aims to contribute to the knowledge base on the status and development of emergent literacy skills of learners receiving formal education in their second or additional language. The focus is on young English language learners (ELLs), i.e. learners whose home language is not English but who have English as their language of teaching and learning. This article reports on a study that investigated ELLs’ emergent literacy skills prior to entering grade 1 and then evaluated the effectiveness of an evidence-based stimulation programme on early literacy skills in the South African context. Using a quasi-experimental design, ELLs’ emergent literacy skills were assessed with an adapted version of 8 of the subtests of the Emergent Literacy Assessment battery (Willenberg, 2004) and were compared to those of English first language (L1) and of ELL control groups, both before and after the 8-week purpose-designed programme. While learners showed significant improvement on 6 of the 8 subtests, the programme did not significantly improve ELLs’ skills in comparison to those of the control groups. Possible independent variables contributing to the dearth of intervention effect include socio-economic status, learners’ L1, and teacher- and classroom-specific characteristics, all of which were considered in this study. Clinical implications for speech-language therapists with regard to assessment, intervention, service delivery and outcome measures are highlighted.


emergent literacy, English language learners, language stimulation programme, preschoolers, second-language learners


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