The ability to read and write is one of the hallmarks of personal development required for economic progress, political-participation and self-expression. According to the nationally-representative 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), 78% of grade 4 learners could not read for meaning in any language. Although there have been some improvements in reading outcomes, at least pre-pandemic, at current rates of progress we will only get to all children reading for meaning in South Africa by the year 2098
When children cannot read for meaning, our people continue to go hungry, our economy continues to grow at a slower rate than our population, and the unemployment rates among our youth continue to increase with dire consequences. This cannot happen on our watch.
Existing evidence shows that more needs to be done if we are to ensure that all children learn to read for meaning by 2030. Although the President and the Minister of Basic Education have both announced their commitment to the 2030 goal, it is still unclear how we as a country might get there, realistically speaking.
The Reading Panel will provide long-term a-political leadership to this national imperative to significantly improve reading. The Panel will meet once a year every year until 2030 and will review progress towards the goal. It will synthesise the evidence on whether or not government plans exist and whether or not they are being implemented. Panelists will also weigh in on where there are areas of promise and success, and where challenges remain, especially in the area of budget allocations for
reading reforms and improvement initiatives.
Getting all children to read for meaning will take a long-term view, with sustained focus on a single issue: reading for meaning. By meeting annually, the panel will raise the status of early grade reading in the South African public space, and also provide an objective voice as to whether we are ‘on-track’ as a country. Given the status and authority of its members, the Panel’s reports and recommendations are likely to be taken seriously by the Public, Parliament, the Presidency and the Department of