Teaching reading : a life history study of two English language educators in a rural primary school in KwaZulu-Natal.
The study aimed to investigate the reading life histories of two educators, focusing on how they were taught to read and came to understand reading, and how this understanding has shaped their teaching of reading in the classroom. Two language educators teaching English in the Intermediate and Senior Phase in a rural primary school in KwaZulu-Natal were chosen for this research. A life history approach was undertaken to gather rich data which was analysed and presented in a life history narrative. The research revealed that the participants’ educational development was severely affected by poverty, violence and the repercussions of apartheid, which all had a negative impact on their education. In spite of this, the participants’ were taught to value reading from an early age by concerned adults in their lives. These adults, although not highly educated themselves, actively instilled early reading habits in the participants, and tried to ensure that they were given the opportunity to be educated so that they could aspire to a better life. The participants’ experiences of learning to read and reading in primary school and high school gave them only a limited understanding of reading and reading practices. The tertiary institutions where they trained as teachers failed to equip them with adequate skills and strategies to teach reading well in their own classrooms. As a result, although both educators believe that they were well trained, they lack adequate strategies for truly effective development of reading in their classrooms. Consequently, they fail to facilitate sound reading skills in their learners, yet are not fully aware of the shortcomings in their own practice.