Original Research

Caregivers’ reading practices to promote literacy in a South African children’s home: Experiences and perceptions

Faadhilah Tayob, Sharon Moonsamy
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 65, No 1 | a559 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v65i1.559 | © 2018 Faadhilah Tayob, Sharon Moonsamy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 April 2017 | Published: 28 June 2018

About the author(s)

Faadhilah Tayob, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital, South Africa
Sharon Moonsamy, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Background: Exposure to social trauma influences the psychosocial experiences of vulnerable children. This affects their positive development, consequentially resulting in poor scholastic progress. South Africa’s history of inequality and injustice has compounded the current social, educational and economic situation, highlighting the need for research on children in care. A paucity of published studies exists on caregiver facilitation of literacy skills among vulnerable populations in South African children’s homes. The purpose of this paper is to describe the reading practices that caregivers in one children’s home (orphanage) used to promote literacy development.


Method: An exploratory, descriptive contextual design was implemented, using inductive and interpretative approaches. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussion were conducted. Ten caregivers, who supervised children aged 9–10 years at the home, consented to be participants. Applied content thematic analysis was used to interpret the data obtained.


Findings: The caregivers at the children’s home were implementing some reading strategies, but they did not engage sufficiently in self-reflection on the reading processes. The caregivers used relevant reading strategies, such as asking questions to develop understanding and memory recall. They encouraged dialogue through characterisation, where the children acted out the roles of the main characters. These reading strategies demonstrate the quality of the mediation.


Conclusions: Speech–language therapists have a role in prevention and promotion programmes in children’s homes. They should advocate for, collaborate on and support caregivers’ facilitation of early literacy skills in these homes, as the link between literacy and language cannot be ignored. Providing guidelines and sharing knowledge on reading instruction for the children are essential in improving the literacy rates in vulnerable populations. Language and literacy interventions are only effective and meaningful if the social and cultural contexts are considered. Such interventions would add value and constitute a step towards redressing past inequalities in South Africa. These results contribute to our understanding of context when developing literacy programmes. The sample size was a limitation. However, the aim was not about generalisation but to gain an insight into caregiver reading practices so that literacy programmes are built on these strengths.


literacy development; emergent literacy; reading strategies; caregivers; children’s home; mediation: zone of proximal development; metalinguistic


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