Original Research

‘One day I will pick up a snake, wanting to read it’: Becoming a successful reader in a rural environment

Caroline van der Mescht
Reading & Writing | Vol 6, No 1 | a55 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v6i1.55 | © 2015 Caroline van der Mescht | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 June 2014 | Published: 21 July 2015

About the author(s)

Caroline van der Mescht, Education Department, Rhodes University, South Africa


Children learning to read and write in rural areas in Southern Africa perform poorly compared to children in urban schools. The poor results of rural schools in national assessments of reading literacy are explained by the deficits of rural areas: poverty, under-resourced schools and under-qualified teachers. Children in rural areas are frequently not exposed to home literacy practices, which prepare them for formal literacy learning at school. Whilst acknowledging the impact of rural poverty on children’s performance, this article explores a role-playing game amongst pre-school and school-going children of rural villages that enabled some children to become successful learners. Focusing on affect, I analyse the way in which the game motivated these children and suggest some of the benefits that promoting this practice may have for teaching and learning in rural areas. The continued underperformance of children in rural schools makes a compelling case for investigating ways of promoting learning and reading in rural homes.


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