‘Books are a uniquely portable magic’

There is no substitute for books in the life of a child. Which is why NGO, The Nal’ibali Trust, is expanding on its reading-for-enjoyment campaign, to initiate a national book exchange project on Saturday, May 26.

Jade Jacobsohn, Nal’ibali’s Managing Director says, ‘Literacy Mentors across the country will be hosting public book exchange events,where everyone is encouraged to bring and swap a book, enjoy storytelling and read-aloud sessions, and find out more about how they can read and share stories effectively with their children.’

How it works
The bookexchange welcomes books of any variety;printed or handmade books for adults or children can be swapped. Those bringing books to exchange will receive a special sticker which can be placed on the inside cover. The sticker provides an opportunity for the previous owner to inscribe their name and location before passing it on.

Illiteracy is the academic handbrake
A recent study by PIRLS states that 78% of Grade 4’s in South Africa are illiterate. All the more worrying when the ability to read in Grade 4 is regarded as crucial. From Grades 1 to 3 you learn to read, but from Grades 4 to 12 you read to learn. ‘If a learner is unable to read properly, they will never get a firm grasp on the first rung of the academic ladder and will fall further and further behind,’saysStellenbosch University education expert,Nic Spaull.

Although parents have high aspirations for their children, many are not aware that reading is a powerful way to help them reach their potential. Research shows that only 35% of adults read regularly to their children and very few are readers themselves. Butteachers, parents and caregivers can play a significant role in children’s literacy development. The Nal’ibali book exchange is an easy and fun way for caregivers and adults to start to model positive reading behaviours and become reading role models for their children.

Reading is learning to fly
‘Academics aside,’ says Jacobsohn, ‘Children who learn to read fluently take a flight into a whole new world, fueled by imagination and buoyed by curiosity.’

But they can’t do it alone. The book exchange intends to encourage adults and children to engage actively in fun literacy behaviors.

‘We recognise and respect the power and potential of communities in literacy development and areworking to build a nation of people who are interested and passionate about storytelling, reading and writing. We want to ensure that every child has at least one reading role model who uses reading and writing in meaningful ways with them, who encourages them to read, and who supports them through the provision of books and other literacy materials.’

You need literary materials to learn to read
Access to literacy materials is one of the biggest barriers faced by South Africans to get reading, the book exchange is just one of the ways that Nal’ibali issupporting the circulation of books and stories in mother tongue languages.

Other Nal’ibali projects to promote reading
Jasobsohn continues, ‘Nal’ibali also produces bilingual newspaper supplements fortnightly during term time. The print rich material includes stories, literacy activities, reading and reading club tips and support, to inspire and guide parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians and reading clubs, to make reading and storytelling meaningful, enjoyable, and accessible.

‘There are also weekly broadcasts of audio stories in all 11 SA languages and a network of over 1000 reading clubs in six provinces. First prize is to bring reading-for-enjoyment intohomes, schools and communities.’

Ambassadors for reading
Supporting the drive, South African public figures will not only be bringing along their own books to swap at exchanges in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo, but will be signing up to Nal’ibali’s volunteer network – FUNda Leader – too.

But it’s not just for celebs, FUNda Leaderis open to anyone who would like to champion literacy in their communities. Those who sign up will receive specialised training to build and nurture literacy amongst children. Members of the public interested in becoming a FUNda Leader can sign up at the exchange or online at Nal’ibali’ s website.

South Africans are also encouraged to hold and host their own book exchanges. Thespeciallydesignedposters and stickersare available for download from the website.

‘With opportunities to browse through different books, sit down and read or page through story books with children or simply get chatting with other community members about the books you have read, or will be reading, the book exchange promises to be a fun activity for all ages.We’re excited to share tips and ideas with all adults and anyone who wants to nurture a love of reading with children. And, with May being ‘Get Caught Reading Month’, there really is every reason to get down to your local book exchange!’

After all, a book is a dream you can hold in your hand, and the future belongs to those who believe in the possibilities of dreams.

For more information about Nal’ibali or its nationwide book exchange drive, visit the Nal’ibali website (www.nalibali.org and www.nalibali.mobi)or find them on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA

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