FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR READING PROBLEMS AMONG PUPILS IN SELECTED PRIMARY SCHOOLS
Background to the Study
Reading is one of the most fundamental media for acquiring and promoting knowledge at all levels of education. Reading is a language skill that aims at facilitating the acquisition and development of literacy skills needed for effective communication in different contexts. The Federal Government of Nigeria seems to have realized this by stating in her National Policy on Education that one of the goals of primary education is to inculcate permanent literacy and numeracy, and ability to communicate effectively in the recipient (FGN, 2004).
The ability to read is one determiner of students’ success or failure. They must form the habit of reading to perform well in all subjects. A good reader has a better opportunity for greater achievement. Ajibola, (2010) states that, a reading habit is cultivated by individuals who are ready to give their all to it.
The skill acquired in reading can promote the acquisition of language skills like listening, speaking, and writing. Some primary school pupils find it difficult to read and understand despite the fact that reading is indispensable. Some show a carefree attitude towards reading. This problem is not peculiar to primary schools, but pertains to all categories of readers. Lasisi (2007) asked a fundamental question on what books Nigerians read. His question included whether political office holders in the country read. It was clear from the tone of the question that he feels that reading is not part of the culture of the people that control Nigerian destiny.
Some English teachers are lagging behind in their approach to teaching reading comprehension. The effect is poor performance among students. These teachers lack methods of imparting reading skills to pupils. The condition is so bad that some pupils find it difficult to read and understand a simple sentence. Amutheazi (2000) notes that there is an urgent need to investigate into the causes of poor reading comprehension among our pupils with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
As reading literacy is a skill, which is the ground of almost all processes of learning and is necessary for students not only to acquire languages and study literature, but also to learn other subjects, the authors of the paper focused on the problem related to low achievements of students’ reading literacy. If student’s reading literacy level is low, in most cases it automatically implies difficulties in the acquisition of several other subjects, consequently obtaining education in general.
Developing strong reading skills in students is one of the key goals of every early education program. It is through reading that students expand their vocabulary and learn about the world. Reading is also the key to success in spelling and writing. And while 6 and 7 year olds are fluent speakers, they require instruction in how to navigate print. If a student is having problems with literacy skills, it can affect their performance across the school curriculum and have a negative impact on motivation to learn and self-esteem.
Sometimes there may be an undiagnosed learning difficulty to blame – as is the case for students who struggle with dyslexia or slow processing. In these situations parents and educators are tasked with understanding the root of the problem and providing children with appropriate coping strategies to ensure they continue to progress and achieve reading milestones.
Not every student acquires reading skills at the same rate. Reading begins with mastering pre-literacy skills, including learning the alphabet and enhancing phonemic awareness. This is followed closely by phonics instruction that teaches children how to map sounds to letters and sound out words. As more terms become familiar to a beginner reader, the process speeds up via whole word recognition or sight-reading. This can be encouraged through direct instruction in high frequency vocabulary.
Reading is a lifelong activity. Those who enjoy reading derive pleasure and satisfaction from it. Adigun and Oyelude (2013) observe that skill in reading will not only assist pupils in organizing their thoughts and jotting down important facts while reading, but also equip them to comprehend entire texts.
Adewole (2011) asserts that the aim of any reading programme is to lay a strong foundation that can benefit pupils throughout their lives in academic pursuits. Phillips (1997) commenting on the numbers of literate pupils in primary schools in Nigeria, notes that about 57 percent of Nigeria’s population over age six is literate, that is, can read and write with understanding in at least one language. The literacy rate is higher among the male population (about 66 percent). While the literacy rate ranges between 50 and 82 percent in the southern states, the rate in most of the northern states (excluding Kaduna and Katsina) ranges from 32 to 50 percent. Adigun and Oyelude (2013) conducted research on the use of the public library in selected locations in Ibadan, with the aim of exploring reading habits and general attitude towards reading and acquisition of skills in reading.
Reading is a crucial form of communication through which we get most of the information required in teaching and learning situations and in everyday life. Krashen (2013) says that we learn to read by reading, not through drill and practice, but by free volition, and in this way learners become readers.
Reading is the recognition of printed or written symbols, which serve as stimuli for the recall of meanings built up through the reader’s past experience. It has also been described as a process of translating alphabetical symbols into a form of language from which the native speaker has already derived the meaning. According to Lawal (2006), readers use the symbols to guide the recovery of information from their repertoires and subsequently use this information to construct interpretations of the message. Adewole (2011) describes “critical reading skill,” which which students need to read, explore, and appreciate a literary text effectively. The ability to read is a crucial skill for information retrieval (Dike, 2006).
There are various factors militating against the effective teaching and learning of reading comprehension in our primary schools.
Oyetunde and Unoh (2016) list impediments to positive reading habits and attitude. These includes lack of materials, poor preparation of teachers, lack of interest, poor libraries or none at all, home background, and lack of adult readers as models.
Ojo (2013) found that the major causes of students’ poor performance in English and other school subjects is their inability to read effectively, which, in turn, is largely is due to the attitude of learners toward reading. Lawal (2012) did diagnostic testing of reading achievement of selected secondary schools in Samaru, Zaria, and described such reading problems as: omission, substitution, reversal, mispronunciation, sight, vocabulary, not up to grade level, nervousness, slow reading, and lack of comprehension.
Teachers must take responsibility for solving these problems, but Folaranmi (2007) believes that the government should involve teachers in working out effective ways of making the teaching profession viable for serving teachers and attractive to incoming ones, in order to address the problem of student poor reading culture. Adekoya and Arua (2015) believe that “many bilingual students fail to comprehend what they read in the school situation because they lack the vital firsthand experience necessary to widen their knowledge and general information of their culture which are not included in the school text.” Akinbade (2007) states that a good environment is necessary to promote effective learning in primary schools.
Oyerokun (2013) emphasizes the need to use appropriate techniques and materials in teaching. She further states that in order to achieve this, the school, teacher, and parents should work together to ensure improvement in reading performance. Bond and Tinker (2013) share the same view as Onibokun, maintaining that school, students, teachers, and parents should work to improve English language reading skill. Hence, this study intends to examine the factors responsible for reading problems among pupils in selected primary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
Statement of the Problem
Most Nigerian public primary school pupils are not learning to read. The public primary school system has more or less collapsed in the sense that only a very small percentage of pupils who go through it learn to read. Therefore, the specific problems of this study include pupils’ lack of reading readiness or foundational skills for developing reading attitudes, concepts and skills, lack of a reading instructional programme that clearly spells out objectives, contents, activities or strategies, instruments, and assessment techniques for developing beginning reading skills, as well as pupils’ lack of basic linguistic skills that can help them read texts. Besides, reading instructional methods have not been able to spell out specific techniques or phases that can be used to develop specific or particular reading skills and concepts of public school primary one pupils in Nigeria.
The ability to read seems to be very important if one is to succeed in life. “Reading and writing are basic skills that a child should master during their first school years to be able to assimilate new knowledge and skills in future” (Paananen, 2010). Ideally, pupils are expected to be fluent in reading by the time they reach primary six because reading skills are taught during the first three years of primary education as earlier mentioned. It is also argued that without the ability to read, one’s performance in other school subjects might get affected.
However, there are many children that encounter reading problems in Nigeria to an extent that some of them might complete six years of primary education without the ability to read even a three letter word. This condition may sometimes cause them to repeat an academic year or drop out from school (Adesiyan, 2012). Results from most studies carried out on reading indicate that most pupils are not able to read according to what is expected of their class. It is against this background that this study sought to establish factors responsible for reading problems among pupils in selected primary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
Purpose of the Study
The general objective of this study is to investigate factors responsible for reading problems among pupils in selected primary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State. It intends to specifically;
- investigate the problems facing pupils who are learning to read.
- determine the role of parents in promoting effective reading abilities in pupils.
- find out if conducive environment can promote the reading ability of pupils.
- determine the role of teachers in promoting reading skills.
- find out whether the government has a role in promoting reading culture in Nigeria.
- proffer suggestions for improvement in teaching to promote reading comprehension.
Significance of the Study
The ability to read is an important skill in today’s modern world where so much information is transmitted in written form. It is important that people have reading skills whether they are in school or not. The choice of this research topic emanated from an observation from past research that, levels of reading difficulties among primary school pupils are very high and Nigeria is not an exception (Kelly, 2009). Nigeria could possibly be having thousands of children who have severe reading problems which have not been detected.
Therefore there is need to identify and understand these reading difficulties early in life and the challenges they bring about so that the situation could possibly be changed for the better.
It is hoped that this study will, to a reasonable extent, help teachers in general, special education teachers, therapists in various fields and other relevant stakeholders know how to handle children with reading difficulties. It is often said that, ‘children are the future leaders.
What kind of future can it be if the leaders are not able to read? Children are a major component of any given society and their competence in all aspects of life is critical for the functioning of society at large. It is hoped that this study has therefore, contributed to information generation in this domain. It is one way of building up a far greater knowledge and evidence base of problems, interventions and what works with this group of young people.
Scope of the Study
This study is delimitated to Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State. It deals with primary school pupils in the local government.
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study;
- what are the problems facing pupils who are learning to read?
- what are the roles of parents in promoting effective reading abilities in pupils?
- can conducive environment promote the reading ability of pupils?
- what are the role of teachers in promoting reading skills?
- what are the roles government in promoting reading culture in Nigeria?
- what are the suggestions for improving teaching of reading comprehension?
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