For 10 years, World Read Aloud Day has drawn global attention to the importance of this activity and sharing stories. Celebrated on February 1, it is well worth taking time to consider the benefits of reading aloud to children, and mulling over the staggering statistics about literacy.
About 758-million people around the globe cannot read. According to South African government statistics, the literacy rate for those aged 15 to 34 is more than 90%, and for those aged 35 to 64 it is just under 80%.
Of paramount importance is the enjoyment of reading, a responsibility that not only rests on the shoulders of educators, but also of parents.
For those of us blessed with a parent who read aloud to us, we viewed it as a treasured, time-honoured tradition, one that surely had a hand in helping us to 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 to them?
Reading aloud is invaluable in 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. It also boosts confidence, helps children to cope better with anxiety, develops memory and expands their worlds.
Sadly, surveys show that only half of parents read to their children daily, and less than 10% read to their children from infancy.
The nonprofit organisation Read Educational Trust is all too aware of the power of literacy and focuses on promoting literacy in South Africa. Although 90% of children may be able to read, the most daunting statistic was revealed by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study in 2016: 78% of grade 4 children 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.
Each box set contains 12 beautifully designed books filled with enchanting, adventure-filled stories set in Africa. These stories revolve around children and animals discovering the world in which they live.
All profits from the books are ploughed back into promoting literacy.
Lizelle Langford is the public relations and fundraising manager at Read Educational Trust. The sets are available at thereadshop.co.za