This study draws on the preProgress in International Reading Literacy Study (prePIRLS) 2011
data. It aims to illustrate the effect of early home literacy activities and the early introduction
of reading skills and strategies in the school setting on reading literacy achievement amongst
South African Grade 4 learners across the 11 official languages. South African learner
performance is consistently poor across a variety of international assessment programmes.
The prePIRLS 2011 study results place South African Grade 4 learners’ results substantially
below the international centre point of 500 at 461 (SE = 3.7). As part of the reading achievement
assessment, prePIRLS 2011 gathered background information in the form of learner, parent,
teacher and school questionnaires. This study investigates two aspects as reported by parents
and school principals of Grade 4 learners: firstly, parents of Grade 4 learners reported in the
Learning to Read survey (or Parent Questionnaire) on the frequency with which early home
literacy activities were conducted in the home before the learner commenced schooling.
Secondly, principals of learners reported on the grade level (from Grade 1 to Grade 4 and
beyond) at which a number of critical reading skills and strategies were introduced to
learners. Fourteen such skills are identified, ranging from basic skills to skills with increased
complexity. This study links the frequency of early home literacy activities, as reported by
Grade 4 learners’ parents, and the introduction of the 14 reading skills, as reported by school
principals, to learner achievement scores in the prePIRLS 2011 assessment.