Reading for pleasure

The children at Westridge Civic Centre.
The children at Westridge Civic Centre.

A local organisation aimed at getting children to read celebrated national Library Week – commemorated between 16 and 23 March – by launching a campaign to mentor 2000 children at 25 primary schools in South Africa.

Nal’ibali Literacy Mentors have connected with children in Mitchell’s Plain to assist them to become library card holders and to further attract residents to their local libraries. The mentors will be supporting library staff in launching 28 reading clubs throughout the year. Nal’ibali is South Africa’s reading-for-enjoyment campaign aimed at using reading and storytelling to ignite the creative and critical potential of all children, especially those who do not have access to reading material, like many children who speak African languages.

“Literacy learning does not only happen at home, at school or in the community – it happens in all three of these places. Nal’ibali’s approach has always been holistic and includes all three places in its approach to children’s early and ongoing literacy development,” says Jade Jacobsohn, Nal’ibali managing director.

To strengthen existing efforts to change children’s experiences of literacy, Nal’ibali brings together many different stakeholders and has been working with libraries since its inception in 2012.

Nal’ibali values libraries as an important community resource and partner in the goal of using reading for enjoyment to develop children’s literacy. The organisation is aimed at providing library staff with training and support in reading-for-enjoyment good practice, supporting library staff to set up and run Nal’ibali reading clubs, making select libraries pick-up points where the public can collect copies of Nal’ibali’s reading-for-enjoyment newspaper, and inviting libraries to co-host literacy events to increase their visibility and popularity

“By rolling up our sleeves, real progress can be made to root reading-for-enjoyment practices into the daily lives of children, their caregivers and communities. Together we can ensure meaningful and sustainable literacy development in South Africa,” says Jacobsohn.

Senovia Welman, national public relations officer for the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA), says: “Libraries have always had an important and significant role to play, especially in terms of offering a community service to their patrons. However, due to the increased use of electronic sources and digital technology, we are seeing more and more that the role of libraries as community and cultural centres is being undervalued and underappreciated, and having Nal’ibali assist us in mobilising members of the community to visit libraries is a huge help.”

This year’s theme, “Libraries: heart of the community”, is a reminder to all library users that the library is a communal space that caters to specific needs whether these are educational, social, recreational or informative­.

Senovia lists the following reasons to visit your local library: Reading at the library is free; regular visits help children establish a habit of reading and become better readers; reading helps to improve writing, thereby growing literate children; libraries are about more than just books – there are great free activities to enjoy such as regular storytelling; libraries offer a quiet space for older children to work on school projects and assignments; libraries are great places to read about your favourite author or discover new authors; and you can ask for advice from knowledgeable librarians.

V For more information about Nal’ibali, free children’s stories in a range of SA languages, tips on reading and writing with children, details on how to set up a reading club, or to request training, visit or, or find them on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA.

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