FOR 10 years, World Read Aloud Day has drawn global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. Celebrated on February 1, it is well worth taking time to consider the countless benefits of this activity, and mulling over some staggering statistics surrounding literacy. Approximately 758 million people across the globe cannot read. According to South African government statistics, our youth literacy rate for those aged 15 to 34 sits at over 90%, whilst adult literacy (ages 35 to 64) sits at just under 80%. Of tantamount importance is the enjoyment of reading; a responsibility that not only rests on the shoulders of educators, but also falls on parents. For those of us blessed with a parent who read aloud to us, we viewed it as a treasured, time-honoured tradition; one which surely had a hand in helping us reach our full potential in later years. Reading aloud is a great way of connecting with little ones. Along with the benefit of spending regular time with your children, this activity supports healthy brain development that forms a priceless foundation for success at school and on the journey of life. Which toddler doesn’t love sitting on their parent’s lap and hearing that beloved voice reading aloud to them? Reading aloud is invaluable when it comes to language development and promoting early literacy skills such as book handling and naming, understanding how stories work, recognising sounds and letters, expanding vocabulary and honing listening skills. Reading aloud also boosts confidence, helps children cope better with anxiety, develops memory and expands children’s worlds. Sadly, surveys show that only half of parents read to their kids daily, and less than 10% of parents read to their children from infancy. Read Educational Trust is all too aware of the power of literacy, and as a non-profit organisation, focuses on promoting literacy across SA. While 90% of children may be able to read, the most daunting statistic was revealed by the Progress In International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2016, where an alarming 78% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language. Among various tools promoted and disseminated by Read, the read aloud magic box sets are vital in encouraging reading aloud, and all the benefits this activity holds. Each of the three box sets contains 12 beautifully designed books filled with enchanting, adventure-filled stories set in Africa. These stories are all set in Africa and revolve around children and animals discovering the world in which they live. These sets are a priceless investment, not only in terms of serving to build your child’s vocabulary, but as far as spending quality time with your little ones goes. Set A is aimed at children aged four to seven; Set B is suited to kids aged five to eight and Set C is for children aged six to nine. All three sets are available online at www.thereadshop.co.za and all profits are ploughed back into promoting literacy. Visit www.thereadshop.co.za and www.read.org.za to find out more. Join the conversations on Facebook (www.facebook.com/READEduTrust/); Twitter (twitter.com/READEduTrust); or Instagram (www.instagram.com/read_educational_trust/) — Supplied.