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Reading in the African Languages

An annotated bibliography compiled by Professor Elizabeth J. Pretorius of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, University of South Africa

This annotated bibliography was compiled as part of the PrimTEd project, which is a component of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) Teaching and Learning Development Capacity Improvement Programme (TLDCIP), looking to improve initial teacher education in literacy and numeracy.  It is under the overall authority of the DHET’s Director-General. 

This annotated bibliography derives from the Consolidated Literacy Work Group (CLWG), which focuses on developing new teacher graduates’ ability to teach African languages and English First Additional language, with a special focus on reading.  It comprises annotated entries, and also lists several other sources closely related to reading in the African languages. Although it was originally compiled in 2017, it is designed in such a way that new entries can be added to it as new research emerges.

The annotated bibliography gives a summary account of research that has been done on reading in African languages (mainly from from 2004 to 2017), more specifically on languages belonging mainly to the family of Southern African Bantu languages. The  annotated entries comprise mainly research articles, chapters from books and postgraduate dissertations or theses. 

Only articles from accredited journals are included in the bibliography. 

The bibliography is presented in three parts:

  • the annotated bilbiography, itself divided into four sections
  • a listing of the bibliography items according to the different African language groups in which the research was done
  • a list of broader literacy issues related to teachers, teacher development and classroom literacy practices in an African context (often serving high poverty communities)
  • A consolidated list of references from the the bibliography


The annotated bibliography

List of references by language

List of references relating to broader literacy issues

Consolidated list of references



South African schooling terminology includes the following which are commonly used in discussions on literacy:

Grade R                       ‘R’ stands for Reception year, the final year of preschool.

CAPS                           The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement ( of the Department  of Basic  Education)

Foundation Phase     Grades 1 to 3

Intermediate Phase   Grades 4 to 6

Senior Phase               Grades 7 to 9

FET Phase                   Grades 10 to 12

High school                 Grades 8 to 12

LoLT                              Language of Learning and Teaching (i.e., the language which is the medium of instruction)


The African languages can be referred to with noun class prefixes attached to the stem, following African linguistic structures (e.g. isiZulu) or without the prefix, following English linguistic structure (e.g. Zulu).  Both conventions are officially recognised as acceptable and appropriate.