Reading is a complex, communicative, integrative and interactive act and one of the most important s kills any learner has to acquire in the formal learning situation. It forms a primary basis for learning. Timeous identification of possible reading difficulties, with the emphasis on enhancing effective initial instruction rather than on providing learning support later, implies that the reading assessment of learners in the Foundation Phase should be regarded as an intrinsic part of the early instruction of reading. Since no formal, locally developed English reading instrument exists for all South African learners in the Foundation Phase, the aim of the research was to develop diagnostic English reading materials for the heterogeneous population of South African learners in Grades 1 to 3 in English schools, to be used by the regular class teacher. In order to design appropriate reading assessment materials, a literature survey was conducted on the latest developments in the theory of reading assessment and test construction. Theory was integrated with praxis and practice, using case studies to illustrate views adopted, resulting in syntheses for the requirements and criteria for the design of the diagnostic reading materials. Two comparable sets of materials in the multiple-choice question format and a user's manual were developed, starting with the recognition of initial letters in words and progressing to complex paragraph reading, with the emphasis always on comprehension. A pilot study was conducted, items were refined and scrutinised by a panel of experts and the materials were experimentally administered to 726 learners at four schools. The responses were coded, the data were captured and statistically computated, and an item analysis and selection, as well as a frequency distribution analysis of errors per error type were conducted. Conclusions were drawn from the findings. <-p> The reading assessment materials were concluded to be practical, valid and reliable. In final form, the materials held the promise of valuable contributions to the understanding of reading development and reading difficulties. Final recommendations were made concerning the final design and the adminis¬tration and use of the materials.
Thesis (PhD (Educational Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.