Views on Empowering Parents to Support their Children with Literacy Skills


  • Bernadictus Plaatjies


literacy skills; reading; writing; parental involvement; empowerment


The purpose of this paper is to examine the views of teachers and parents on strategies for empowering parents to effectively support their children with literacy skills. Literature sketches a bleak picture of the poor literacy performance of South African primary school learners. This qualitative study utilising a case study design, was conducted at two primary schools in the Mangaung district of Bloemfontein's Free State Department of Education (FSDOE). The participants were selected through the purposive sampling method and data were collected through interviews and open-ended questionnaires. The data was presented and analysed within themes aligned with the literature, conceptual framework and the objectives of the study. The findings disclosed that parental support regarding literacy is insufficient and that both teachers and parents are experiencing immense challenges with poor literacy skills among learners. The findings brought forth some noteworthy suggestions for empowering parents to support their children with the improvement of literacy skills. The main conclusion derived from the study is the need for a greater focus on strategies to involve parents in literacy improvement. It is recommended that future research focus on strategies to enhance parental empowerment for improved support to their children with literacy skills.


Abkar Alkodimi, K., & Mohammed Hassan Al-Ahdal, A. A. (2021). Strategies of teaching writing at Saudi tertiary-level institutions: Reality and expectations. Arab World English Journal (AWEJ), 12(2), 399-413.

Al-Fadley, A., Al-Holy, A., & Al-Adwani, A. (2018). Teacher perception of parents' involvement in their children's literacy and their reading instructions in Kuwait EFL primary school classrooms. International Journal of Education and Practice, 6(3), 120-133.

Alramamneh, Y., Saqr, S., & Areepattamannil, S. (2023). Investigating the relationship between parental attitudes toward reading, early literacy activities, and reading literacy in Arabic among Emirati children. Large-scale Assessments in Education, 11(1), 36.

Aram, D., & Shachar, C. A. (2024). “Let’s Write Each Other Messages”: Association Between Involvement in Writing in a Preschool Online Forum and Early Literacy Progress. Early Education and Development, 35(3), 511-530.

Athiemoolam, L., & Kwayiyo, N. P. (2022). Primary school teachers’ experiences of parental involvement for learners’ literacy skills development. Journal of Studies in Social Sciences and Humanities, 8(1), 126-142.

Badrasawi, K., Yahefu, H., & Khalid, M. (2019). Challenges to parental involvement in children’s education at a primary school: A Rasch analysis. IIUM Journal of Educational Studies, 7(1), 47-57.

Böhmer, G., & Willis, G. (2023). COVID-19 and inequality in reading outcomes in South Africa PIRLS 2016 and 2021 COVID-Generation working paper. Stellenbosch University.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful qualitative research. A Practical guide for beginners. Sage Publishers.

Buyukalan, S. F., & Altinay, Y. B. (2018). Views of primary teachers about homework (A qualitative analysis). Journal of Education and Training Studies, 6(9), 1–11.

Carter, J., Podpadec, T., Pillay, P., Babayi?it, S., & Gazu, K. A. (2024). A systematic review of the effectiveness of reading comprehension interventions in the South African multilingual context. Educational Research and Evaluation, 29(1-2), 69-103.

Chetty, R. (2019). Literacy teaching in disadvantaged South African schools. Literacy, 53(4), 245–253.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2018). Research methods in education. Routledge.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2018). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage.

Department of Basic Education (DBE). (2000). Education for all status report: South Africa (incorporating country plans for 2002 to 2015). Government Printer.

DesJardin, J. L., Stika, C. J., Eisenberg, L. S., Johnson, K. C., Ganguly, D. H., & Henning, S.C. (2023). Home Literacy Experiences and Shared Reading Practices: Preschoolers With Hearing Loss. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 28(2), 189-200.

Diane, G. C. (2014). Methods and meanings: Credibility and trustworthiness of qualitative

research. Oncology Nursing Forum, 41(1), 89–91.

ELbashir, B. (2023). Writing Skills Problems: Causes and Solutions. International Journal of English Language Teaching (IJELT), 11(5), 52-64.

Franklin, S., & McLaren, D. (2015). Realizing the right to a basic education in South Africa: An analysis of the content, policy effort, resource allocation and enjoyment of the constitutional right to a basic education. Studies in poverty and inequality. Working Paper 10. SPII Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute.

Govender, R., & Hugo, A. J. (2020). An analysis of the results of literacy assessments conducted in South African primary schools. South African Journal of Childhood Education, 10(1), a745. sajce.v10i1.745

Griffith, S. F., Hagan, M. B., Heymann, P., Heflin, B. H., & Bagner, D. M. (2020). Apps as learning tools: A systematic review. Pediatrics, 145(1).

Haffila, M., Sarifa, A., & Mohamed Mansoor, A. (2018). Teachers and students attitudes towards homework a case study on Trichy urban primary schools. International Journal of English Research, 4(3), 01–04.

Hanratty, J., Miller, S., Brennan-Wilson, A., Cockerill, M., Davison, J., Roberts, J., & Winter, K. (2019). registration for a systematic review: The effectiveness of homework in primary school: a systematic review. Campbell Collaboration.

Harding, J. (2013). Qualitative data analysis from start to finish. Sage.

Hartle, L. C. (2020). Technology and young children: Processes, context, research, and practice. In L. E. Cohen & S. Waite-Stupiansky (Eds.), STEM in early childhood education (pp. 22–45). Routledge. 9780429453755

Howie, S. J., Combrinck, C., Roux, K., Tshele, M., Mokoena, G. M., & McLeod Palane, N. (2017). PIRLS Literacy 2016. Progress in International Reading Literacy Study 2016: South African Children's Literacy Achievement. Centre for Evaluation and Assessment.

Hulme, R. C., Webber, C. E., Fox, A. C., Ricketts, J., National Family Learning Forum, Shapiro, L. R., & Taylor, J. S. H. (2022). Do family learning phonics courses improve parents' reading?related skills and ability to support their children's reading? Journal of Research in Reading, 45(3), 258-276.

Jabareen, Y. (2009). Building a conceptual framework: philosophy, definitions, and procedure. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(4), 49-62.

Killen, R. (2015). Teaching strategies for quality teaching and learning. Juta.

Landsberg, J., Kruger, D. & Swart, E. (2016). Addressing barriers to learning: A South African Perspective. Van Schaik.

Malkani, R., & Rose, R. (2018). Learning from the Voices of First Generation Learners in a Remote Community of Maharashtra, India. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 14(2), 104-127.

Mapongwana, K. E., Rembe, S., Chinyama, N., & Wadesango, N. Parents’ Perceptions on Participating in Curricular Activities: A Case Study of Four Secondary Schools in Dimbaza in the King William’s Town Education District. African Perspectives of Research in Teaching & Learning (APORTAL),5(1), 152-182.

Mascarenchas, S. S., Moorakonda, R., Agarwal, P., Lim, S. B., Sensaki, S., Chong, Y. S., Allen, J. C., & Daniel, L. M. (2017). Characteristics and influence of home literacy environment in early childhood-centered literacy orientation. Proceedings of Singapore Healthcare, 26(2), 81–97.

Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Sage.

McLeod, S. A. (2019). Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research. Simply Psychology.

Metelerkamp, T. (2023). LITERACY CRISIS: International study shows most Grade 4s in South Africa cannot read for meaning.

Mohammed, I., & Amponsah, O. (2018). Predominant factors contributing to low reading abilities of pupils at Elsie Lund Basic School in the Tamale Metropolis, Ghana. African Educational Research Journal, 6(4), 273–278.

Moses, R. N., & Mohamad, M. (2019). Challenges faced by students and teachers on writing skills in ESL contexts: A literature review. Creative Education, 10, 3385–91.

Mullis, I. V. S., von Davier, M., Foy, P., Fishbein, B., Reynolds, K. A., & Wry, E. (2023). PIRLS 2021 International Results in Reading. Boston College

Mullis, I. V., Martin, M. O., Foy, P., & Hooper, M. (2017). ePIRLS 2016: International Results in Online Informational Reading. International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

Naicker, S. (2020). School–parent engagement through relational leadership practices of school principals in a multicultural setting (Master thesis). University of Pretoria.

Nowell, L. S., Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, N. J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the trustworthiness criteria. International journal of qualitative methods, 16(1), 1-13.

Omidire, M. F. (2019). Experiencing language challenges in a rural school: implications for learners’ life aspirations. Early Child Development and Care, 190(10), 1619-1637.

Parveen, A., Dar, M. A., Rasool, I., & Jan, S. (2022). Challenges in the Multilingual Classroom Across the Curriculum. In Karpava, S. (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching in Multicultural and Multilingual Contexts (pp. 1-12). IGI Global.

Pfeffer, V. (2018). Homework policy review: A case study of a public school in Western Cape province. South African Journal of Education, 38(1), 1–10.

Pfost, M., & Heyne, N. (2023). Joint book reading, library visits and letter teaching in families: relations to parent education and children’s reading behavior. Reading and Writing, 36(10), 2627-2647.

Plaatjies, B. (2016). ‘n Ondersoek na onderrigpraktyke in skryfvaardighede aan milieugeremde leerders by plattelandse skole in die Wes-Kaap (An investigation into the teaching practices of writing skills to milieu-disabled learners at rural schools in the Western Cape) (Doctoral dissertation). University of South Africa.

Plaatjies, B. (2021). ‘n Ondersoek na ouerondersteuning aan primêreskoolleerders in skryfvaardighede en -aktiwiteite in lae-inkomstegesinne. (An investigation into parental support to primary school learners in writing skills and activities in low-income households). Litnet Akademies: ’n Joernaal vir die Geesteswetenskappe, Natuurwetenskappe, Regte en Godsdienswetenskappe, 18(1), 396-422.

Polit, D. F., & Beck, C. T. (2012). Nursing research: Generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Rapp, N., & Duncan, H. (2012). Multi–dimensional parental involvement in schools: A principal's guide. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 7(1), 1–14.

Ravitch, S. M., & Riggan, M. (2016). Reason & rigor: How conceptual frameworks guide research. Sage Publications.

Resnik, D. B. (2020). What is ethics in research & why is it important?

Rule, P., & Land, S. (2017). Finding the plot in South African reading education. Reading & Writing, 8(1), a121.

Saracho, O. N. 2017. Parents' shared storybook reading: Learning to read. Early Child Development and Care, 187(3-4), 554-567.

Schoeman, C. (2018). Parents experiences of their parental engagement in the early grades (Master thesis). University of Pretoria.

Sedibe, M., & Fourie, J. (2018). Exploring opportunities and challenges in parent–school partnerships in special needs schools in the Gauteng Province, South Africa. Interchange, 49(4), 433-444.

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). (2006). Report of the public hearing on the right to basic education. SAHRC.

South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). (2012). Charter of Children's Basic Education Rights. The right of children to basic education. SAHRC.

Sun, H., & Rungrojsuwan, S. (2019). Parental involvement in students' English writing competence: A model at Chinese junior middle school. Asian Culture and History, 11(1), 41.

USAID. (2020). Language of Instruction Country Profile: South Africa. USAID.

Vasylenko, V. O. (2017). The parents' role in helping children to develop reading skills. Edukacja Elementarna w Teorii i Praktyce (EETP), 12(46), 71–80.

Venketsamy, T. R., & Sibanda, S. D. (2021). Exploring strategies teachers use to develop literacy skills among English First Additional Language learners in the Foundation Phase. Perspectives in Education, 39(2), 253-266.

Wu, J., Barger, M. M., Oh, D., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2022). Parents’ daily involvement in children’s math homework and activities during early elementary school. Child Development, 93(5), 1347-1364.

Yang, J., Lawrence, J. F., & Grøver, V. (2023). Parental expectations and home literacy environment: A questionnaire study of Chinese-Norwegian dual language learners. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 37(1), 159-173.

Zhang, S. Z., Inoue, T., Cao, G., Li, L., & Georgiou, G. K. (2023). Unpacking the effects of parents on their children’s emergent literacy skills and word reading: evidence from urban and rural settings in China. Scientific Studies of Reading, 27(4), 355-374.