Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Project to give away 100 000 books to encourage childhood literacy

The first five years of life are the most significant for brain development. 

This is the time when the foundations for language and life are laid down and when, for children to thrive later in school and professionally, they need to be surrounded by caring adults who create safe and stimulating environments that are filled with opportunities to play and imagine and to listen to, think and talk about stories.

But, with attendance at early childhood development centres lower than it has been in the past 18 years, many children face a gloomy future. In response to this situation, three literacy NGOs, supported by the Liberty Community Trust, have teamed up to intervene: Yizani Sifunde (Come, let’s read), is a newly launched literacy project from Nal’ibali, Book Dash and Wordworks.

Each one of us is a storyteller in some form or another and stories could well turn out to be South Africa’s secret weapon. 

Great and well-told stories motivate children to learn to read and write for themselves and are what set the foundation of literacy learning as well as cognitive and emotional development. 

Research shows us that we cannot wait for children to learn the mechanics of reading at school. For the effects of a literacy intervention to be meaningful and lasting — so that the results are felt well into the school years and adulthood — it needs to take place in the early years.

This includes increasing the availability of good quality books and stories in children’s home languages for parents and others to share with children, but it also means ensuring that the adults who surround these children understand why — or at least accept — that telling and reading stories with children is valuable — and essential — for their future educational success and for the broader success of society.

With most learners leaving the school system without the basic skills they need to succeed in school and afterwards — remember: about 78% of grade 4 children cannot read for meaning and close to a third of children are functionally illiterate and live in rural areas — they remain trapped in a cycle of poverty. Yizani Sifunde will be injecting 100 000 new locally-contextualised story books in children’s home languages into the Queenstown, East London and Tsholomqa areas, with the majority of these being for children to take home. 

It will also support practitioners at 40 early childhood development centres to make use of a literacy-themed learning programme and provide practical training and materials to caregivers and interested members of the areas on how to run extra-mural reading clubs. 

Regular reading and story sharing at home and in other settings, together with support for programmes and media campaign, will influence children’s oral and written language development as well as the confidence, understanding and practices of all those who are involved so they are better placed to spark their children’s potential long before they start school. 

Ultimately, Yizani Sifunde aims to significantly change the life trajectory of children by helping parents and other adults value their teaching roles and reawaken a love of stories.

Sally du Preez is Nal’ibali’s communications specialist

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Sally du Preez
Sally du Preez works for the Nal’ibali campaign

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

R270m ‘housing heist’ bid deprives people of decent homes

After alleged attempts to loot Eastern Cape housing funds, 39 200 people in the province will continue to live in atrocious conditions

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied

More top stories

R270m ‘housing heist’ bid deprives people of decent homes

After alleged attempts to loot Eastern Cape housing funds, 39 200 people in the province will continue to live in atrocious conditions

Stolen ammo poses security threat amid failure to protect high-risk...

A Durban depot container with 1.5-million rounds of ammunition may have been targeted, as others in the vicinity were left untouched, say security sources

Sierra Leoneans want a share of mining profits, or they...

The arrival of a Chinese gold mining company in Kono, a diamond-rich district in the east of Sierra Leone, had a devastating impact on the local community, cutting its water supply and threatening farmers’ livelihoods – and their attempts to seek justice have been frustrated at every turn

IEC to ask the courts to postpone local elections

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa said the Moseneke inquiry found that the elections would not be free and fair if held in October
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×