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Teachers often use a basal reading series as the backbone of their reading
development programme. A basal reading series can have either a code-
emphasis or meaning-emphasis approach. It usually consists of a set of
readers beginning with pre-primary readers and followed by readers with
gradually increasing levels of difficulty to about Grade 8 level. More recently,
some basal reading series have been changed from a grade approach to an
approach which indicates each reader’s stage of reading development.

A typical basal reading series is accompanied by supplementary readers,

workbooks, flash cards and sentence strips. Some have placement and
achievement tests. The teacher’s manual explains the purpose of the reading
programme, gives clear guidelines on how to use it and includes skill
development activities. It is a very structured programme with outlines for
each lesson. It also includes vocabulary to be introduced, explains how
learners can be motivated and provides activities to check comprehension of
each page in the series.

The subject matter of the readers is usually multi-racial, includes

disadvantaged groups and is based on well-known interests of learners. The
readers introduce comprehension testing, word attack skills and the
vocabulary in a systematic manner through increasing levels of difficulty. The
readers, teacher’s manual and workbooks combine to teach word attack skills
and phonics, develop comprehension and increase reading rate.

The advantages of the basal reading approach are the following:

• It develops comprehension as the stories contain many details and are
often divided into small parts.
• It progresses from emergent to advanced reading skills.
• It gives detailed guidance on how to teach and suggest various activities.
• It is decidedly systematic and sequential in its approach.
• Vocabulary is introduced, repeated and reinforced throughout all the
• It provides assessment and diagnostic materials.

A disadvantage of this approach is that it is such a structured approach that it

can stifle the teacher’s creativity and result in a rigid and traditional approach
to the teaching of reading. It lends itself to the teaching of reading in groups
where the needs of the individual might be ignored. It also provides practice in
only one kind of reading material, and does not include the reading of library
books, maps, charts or even mathematical problems. A skilled teacher will
be able to adjust the reading material or add to its content to ensure that the
needs of individual learners are met.


The direct reading approach is used. The reading lesson is structured in the
following way:
• Firstly, learners are encouraged to learn the material. Then the new
concepts and vocabulary presented to them.
• By asking questions, the teacher guides the learners through the reading
content for the day. The questions set a specific goal or purpose for the
• Skills are then developed by using activity books or drill activities.
• Learners must apply the skills just learned by doing similar activities.
• Learners are evaluated on their application of the skills learned.