Teaching children to enjoy reading

2018-01-21 00:19

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As 2017 wound down, South Africa heard news that broke our collective hearts. The results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) alerted us to the fact that, in case you missed it, 78% of South African Grade 4 pupils cannot read for meaning in any language.

This is despite the fact that education is one of the ministries that consistently gets a bigger chunk of the national budget annually. Where are we going wrong?

Nal’ibali, the national campaign for reading for enjoyment, thinks they may have a solution that goes beyond throwing money at our nation’s literacy crisis. On its website it provides free, multilingual reading material for children and encourages the formation of – and provides support to – reading clubs throughout the country. Every year since 2013, Nal’ibali has encouraged South Africans to join the rest of the world in a global campaign called World Read Aloud Day.

“Reading aloud has been shown to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading,” according to the National Academy of Education and National Institute of Education.

Every year since Nal’ibali started its own World Read Aloud Day activities, a South African author has been commissioned by the campaign to write a special story that is translated into all 11 official South African languages and that people can read aloud to their children, their neighbours’ children and children at libraries on the day.

Each year, the number of those who take part in the campaign has increased, from 13 401 in 2013 to an incredible 719 627 last year.

In 2017, Nal’ibali was lucky enough to have actresses Buhle Ngaba and Hlubi Mboya, and writers Mohale Mashigo and Sindiwe Magona read aloud to some of the children.

This year, the day will take place on February 1 and I am honoured to be the writer contributing this year’s story. I am coming home so that I can read it to 1 000 children in Soweto. My story, The Final Whistle, about a football-loving future Bafana Bafana player and his best friend who hope to lead South Africa to winning the World Cup championship, will be read across South Africa. It begins: “I am going to score two goals today Dad, you will see,” Neo said as he put on one of his football boots. “And I will assist in three goals,” uncle Priya, who had just come in with her little brother Rahul, added.

The aim this year is to have at least one million children participating in World Read Aloud Day. I ask all public figures, educators, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and all South Africans of goodwill, to take some time from their day on February 1 to commit to reading aloud to the children in their lives. Illiteracy will not end through taking part in the campaign, but it is a good way to start reducing it. More so, if those of us who take part in the day commit to doing it more frequently.

For my part, I commit to avail myself to read aloud to children at least once every two weeks during the four months I will be home from February 1 until May 31. So, alert your local reading clubs and libraries if they need me to do so. I would like to play my part to ensure that when the next Pirls report on literacy is released, there will be more children who can not only read, but read for enjoyment. I hope you, fellow South Africans, will join me.

TALK TO US

Do you know of any special read out loud event taking place on February 1?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword READ and tell us about it, including the venue and time. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Wanner is a literacy advocate and author of children’s and adults’ books.

Visit nalibali.org to join the World ReadAloud Day celebration or nalibali.mobi to download the special story and pledge the number of children you will be reading it to. Share pictures of your read-aloud sessions by using #WRADChallenge2018 on the day

Read more on:    education  |  literacy

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