By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The Deputy Minister of Education yesterday expressed deep concern over the lack of rudimentary reading skills in primary school learners in the country. Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo was speaking at a two-day workshop on reading skills development in young children in the capital. About 60 teachers, directors of education and librarians are attending the workshop that ends today. “The importance of mastering reading skills cannot be over-emphasized. Success and achievement in our various careers and employment opportunities are largely ascribed to our ability to transfer written knowledge into relevant and meaningful application in real life situations and this we can only do if our reading skills are well developed,” dr Ndjoze-Ojo, herself an educational expert, said. She emphasised the fact that reading is an essential skill in the learning process. “The reading process involves the recognition and comprehension of words within a written text. Learning to read is an important education goal because it opens up new worlds and opportunities. Therefore, in order to become competent readers, our learners need to develop a range of skills and strategies for making sense of the printed word.” One of the primary aims of the workshop is to establish why some children are scared by the size of a book, which makes them fail to master proper reading skills throughout their elementary education. “Reading is a very important life skill and essential for academic performance, research, writing skills, and above all, decision making at all levels. Realising the importance of such a workshop, we are looking at the role parents, teachers, librarians, school principals, subject advisors and/or even teacher training institutions ought to play to inculcate reading skills and nurture the love for books and reading in children during pre-primary and primary education,” she said. There is a general concern that a sizeable number of primary school learners reach high school and later enrol with colleges or even the university without having properly mastered reading skills that may enable them to cope with the academic demands of institutions of higher learning. “Initial instruction in reading is of basic importance in developing later reading and information literacy skills. Children can be helped at home, kindergarten or at school to acquire reading skills. Much of this help is concerned with stimulating the children’s language skills by talking to them, encouraging them to talk and reading to them,” she said. Research has shown that children who read well in the early grades are successful in later years and those who fall behind often stay behind when it comes to academic achievement. “Reading opens the door to learning all the academic subjects; thus young capable readers can succeed in their subjects, take advantage of other opportunities such as reading for pleasure and develop confidence in their own abilities. On the other hand, those learners who cannot read well are likely to drop out of school and be limited to manual and/or low paying jobs throughout their lives,” she told the workshop participants.
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