Literacy promotion through the print media: a case study of the effect of non-textbook reading materials in selected primary schools
Wei, Sheng Qian
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Non –textbook reading materials (NTBRMs) have for a long time been identified by educationists and literacy experts as key tools in providing literacy skills and in reinforcing the process of learning until the individual achieves permanent literacy. But it is not just any type of NTBRMs that are suitable for literacy acquisition, most especially by the young. Materials that relate directly to the child’s familiar environment are more likely to provide the necessary stimulus for the child to master the skill of reading and writing as well as sustaining the child’s interest in that skill. The print media in Uganda having noted the widespread scarcity of suitable NTBRMs in English took the initiative to provide regular special pullout materials aimed at cultivating and sustaining children’s interest in reading and writing in English. Are such materials fulfilling the tasks for which they were originally set up ? How accessible to all children in primary schools are such materials? And if such materials are making an impact on stakeholders, how far is their provision sustainable without public funding given the fact that most media houses exist through profit making rather than through social service provision? In trying to provide answers to these and other related questions, this study assessed the print media’s efforts and their effect in providing literacy skills to pupils in selected primary schools in Kampala and Wakiso Districts, Uganda. Qualitative research techniques involving in- depth interviews, focus group discussions were conducted with stakeholders and a test with exercises extracted from and / or moulded on the special published materials was given to p 7 pupils in selected schools. Although the results of the test were inconclusive in determining whether access or exposure to NTBRMs was or was not the key factor in the acquisition of literacy skill by pupils, the results did show that chances of better performance by pupils increased with access to NTBRMs. It was also clear from the many contributions to the special materials from the children themselves that children were indeed reading these NTBRMs and were reacting positively – a clear sign that literacy among the young was surely being realized. The study recommends that more sponsorship and increased sales need to be increased as well as the establishment of stronger partnerships between all stakeholders as ways of ensuring sustainability of NTBRMs. More investigations are also necessary to comprehensively deal with all factors involved in literacy acquisition.