Read, and dream big

2009-04-21 00:00

IN today’s world, literacy and reading are the key that opens the door to the global village. But sophisticated computers and modern forms of media are useless to a country that does not invest in the literacy of its people.

And it’s a desire to change this reality for many South Africans which underpins Gcina Mhlophe-Becker’s reading project, Nozincwadi.

The Durban-based author, storyteller and activist first came up with the idea eight years ago. “In April 2001 I started a 12-month project and eight years later I am still travelling around,” Mhlope-Becker said.

“I travel with books, perform and tell children about my love of books and where I come from and the fact that it never bugged me or made me feel small. I tell them that I loved books, that I read and read. Reading inspired me to think and dream big.”

And it’s that love of reading and a belief that literacy can and will open doors for people that continues to drive Mhlope-Becker’s Nozincwadi: Mother of Books project.

“The aim of visiting schools and community centres is to tell and read stories from books. To tell the story of Nozincwadi and encourage parents to be involved in literacy and reading to their children,” Mhlope-Becker said. “The Nozincwadi project has helped teachers and librarians set up library boxes, and where libraries already exist we help by bringing new books.”

To help her provide books for pupils and those involved in adult literacy projects, Mhlope-Becker has joined forces with Awesome SA, an NGO which supports and works with individuals and organisations that are making a difference to the lives of ordinary South Africans. Hirsch’s too is helping collect second-hand books. Donations of books can be made at any branch of Hirsch’s in KwaZulu-Natal.

The reading project, which will be back on the road in May, also needs funds to ensure that the books are distributed to the poorer areas of the country. If you can assist financially, contact Awesome SA at

In the meantime, Mhlope-Becker intends putting pressure on the Department of Arts and Culture to put aside money from the budget to pay for a CD recording of the book Nozincwadi for blind children and a sign-language DVD for deaf children.

“I never leave out children with disabilities and when I go to schools with deaf children, I get someone to ‘sign’ my stories as I tell them,” she said, adding that braille versions of her books were also needed.

The aims and objectives of the Nozincwadi: Mother of Books project:

• to introduce and promote the pleasure of reading;

• to promote South African and African authors;

• to encourage young people to start creating their own stories and their own books so they can have a say in the future of writing and reading in this country; and

• to distribute books within communities who otherwise would have no access to books.

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