North coast residents encouraged to read books

2016-09-15 06:00
Photo: andile sithole Encouraging the community to read at the Tongaat Central Library (from left) Joanna Dunraj, Pravina Maharaj, Varshan Sookhun (Lotus FM presenters), Vigie Padayachee and Sylvia Garib.

Photo: andile sithole Encouraging the community to read at the Tongaat Central Library (from left) Joanna Dunraj, Pravina Maharaj, Varshan Sookhun (Lotus FM presenters), Vigie Padayachee and Sylvia Garib.

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NATIONAL Literacy Day is celebrated throughout the world with the aim to promote literacy and inculcate the habit of reading and writing in the community.

North coast residents converged at the Tongaat Central Library last week to share ideas about the significance of promoting a culture of reading and writing.

During a special live broadcast on Lotus FM, guest speakers at the function stressed the importance of primary education at lower levels as it creates a solid and basic understanding to young children.

Ganas Govender (63), a member of Fairbreeze Senior Citizens Club, said: “Being acquainted with books gives you an opportunity to be a better person even though you did not have a chance to go to school.”

Former ward 61 councillor Michael Abraham said: “A good reader makes a good leader. We need good leaders in our community. The youth in particular must engage in reading because the unemployment rate is very high in South Africa,” he said.

The purpose of the literacy programme is to promote social change and development through learning.

Vigie Padayachee from the Tongaat library said: “We celebrate our heritage while promoting reading and literacy. We have furthermore engaged schools to encourage those who have not been part of the library to join us. Our goal is to show the members of the community that the library is not a place to keep books, rather a lake of knowledge where you can acquire learning skills and advance yourself.”

Professor Christa van der Walt from the Stellenbosch University told the Weekly that older people can learn to become literate in terms of electronic media and relying on a community of people who help each other.

“This shows that it is not enough to have adult literacy classes, but you need a community that supports and continues the development of literacy [also digital literacy] outside the classroom. That is true for children too. It is not enough to learn to read and write at school, but reading needs to continue outside of the classroom in the form of storybooks, parents reading to the children or older children reading to the younger ones,” she said.

Van der Walt said that literacy makes a person more employable.

“When I look at teacher training programmes, I am concerned that universities try to change teaching practises that we regard as unproductive, but schools resist these efforts by telling student teachers to forget everything they were taught at the university. No change can come about with that attitude.

“By saying this, teachers who have been in the system for a long time pull new teachers into a culture that perpetuates bad or ineffective teaching habits. I am not saying this is the case in all schools, but it seems to be the case in many schools and this is why literacy levels do not improve. Of course, universities do not get it right either so there needs to be a better partnership between universities and schools so that the current systems can change.” she said.

Van der Walt believes that the culture of reading and writing must be instilled in children at an early age in order to implant the love and attitude of reading.

She said that exposing children to storybooks at an early age has an advantage of increasing the love for reading and set them up for success for the rest of their lives.

“If the children can improve their reading ability by reading outside of school too, they will overcome their dislike of reading. Storybooks and even storytelling is incredibly important to teach children narrative structure and to understand concepts like empathy with others. Their imaginations are fired and they become willing to create their own stories and this develops language fluency.”

She added that the insufficient number of Grade R classes in some communities contributes to the increased apathy towards reading among young children. She urged South African teachers to encourage pupils to read storybooks.

“A lack of Grade R classes, poverty, parents and guardians who cannot add to the child’s literacy experiences outside of school, the introduction of English as a language of learning and teaching in Grade 4 or earlier, all these factors work against literacy being developed sufficiently.

“It seems to me that the curriculum, advisers and the Department of Basic Education are doing everything they can, but they cannot do much against these other factors.

“Of course they can help schools to change the policy of introducing English as the language of learning and teaching in Grade 4, but I do not see this happening anytime soon,” she said.

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