Read to soar high

Taryn Lock is a third-generation South African Chinese woman, born and raised in the south of Johannesburg. She worked in management consulting and financial services as a strategy analyst, and is now the co-founder and programme director of READ to RISE, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that promotes youth literacy in under-resourced communities. 

The programme inspires children to read and give them access to new, high quality, age-appropriate reading books. The NGO visits classes and has interactive learning sessions with the children. They give each child their own books to take home and place a mini-library of 50 new books in every class. To date, they have visited over 270 classes in Mitchells Plain and Soweto and have given out over 16 000 new books. READ to RISE is an official partner of the department of basic education. 

Lock did the illustrations for the children’s book Oaky and the Sun by Athol Williams, which her organisation uses as part of their programme to inspire children to read. Lock is currently working on illustrations for three more books in the Oaky series. Her work at READ to RISE earned her a place in the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in 2014. She has also been interviewed on radio talk station Hectic Nine-9 and will be featured on SABC3’s Expresso show. 

Where did you start your schooling? 

I attended Robertsham Primary School and Sir John Adamson in the south of Johannesburg. Thereafter, I studied at the University of Witwatersrand,where I obtained a BSc with majors in mathematics and computer science. I went on to do an honours degree in mathematics.


Who were your favourite teachers?

I was very fortunate to have some very good teachers. My favourite teacher was Miss van Rooyen (now Ann Shrives), who was my grade one teacher at Robertsham Primary School.

What influence did she have on you?

Starting primary school as a seven-year-old was very daunting, but Miss van Rooyen welcomed us and made school enjoyable. She was a good teacher, very encouraging and she made our classwork and homework fun and interesting. It was because of her that I loved going to school and learning about new things.

What were your favourite subjects and why?

I enjoyed mathematics — working with numbers and solving problems. I also enjoyed art; I liked drawing, painting and being creative.

Describe the qualities that a good teacher should have?

A good teacher should always encourage learners to learn and achieve their dreams. He or she should be knowledgeable, supportive and make learning fun and interesting.

What are the things a teacher should never do or say?

A teacher should never belittle or criticise learners, especially not in front of other children.

What message do you have for teachers?

Through my work at READ to RISE, I visit many classrooms in Mitchells Plain. I really admire and respect teachers and all the work that they do for their learners, especially in communities that are under-resourced and have many learners in a class. It is such a challenging job, and teachers have such an influence on young children; they mould the future leaders of our country. I am who I am today because of my parents and teachers. My message to teachers is to keep doing the wonderful work that they are doing to educate learners. Inspire them to read, learn, pursue their passions and go on to become constructive members of society.

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Thabo Mohlala
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