It is widely acknowledged that different communities, such as language groups and socio-economic status (SES) families, practice literacy in different ways. Certain language communities of low SES observe literacy interactions differently from the traditional “schooled literacy”, which may influence learners’ reading literacy. However, the link between language communities, SES and reading literacy has not been extensively researched, especially in the South African context where there are 11 official languages and wide socio-economic disparities. This article examines students’ social literacy in relation to their reading literacy levels, and reveals that the literacy gap between indigenous South African language (ISAL) speakers, a number of whom are from low SES families, and speakers of English and Afrikaans is further widened at the tertiary level due to the mismatch between the social literacy practices of the different language groups and the education system that operates in the country. Recommendations are made on how educators could employ strategies such as social relevance and culturally sensitive teaching to bridge the academic literacy gap among the language groups.