Children cannot learn to read, or love to read, if they do not have access to books and stories. That’s why the DG Murray Trust (DGMT) and FNB have teamed up with Books For Africa and logistics company DSV to get books into the hands of approximately 80 000 children across the country.
The ability to read well is the ticket to educational success. Having a good stock of books in the home has a greater influence on a child’s educational attainment than their parents’ income, nationality or level of education. Yet, in South Africa, 51% of households have no leisure books, and only 6% of homes have more than 40 books.
One of the key drivers of the literacy crisis in the country is the low access to books, especially in townships and rural areas. Only 15% of South Africans live within easy reach of a public library, and the prohibitive cost of books means that just 4% of South Africans are buying them. In light of this issue, American organisation Books For Africa has donated over 300 000 books to the DGMT, which supports several initiatives working to grow a love of reading in children as one of its key strategies to ensure that every person has the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
“Around the world, there tends to be a correlation between illiteracy and poverty. Quite literally, by addressing the limited access to resources that children have, we can help strengthen their educational prospects. Studies show that when children are exposed to a greater variety of books, they are much more inclined to read,” says Dr. Sebabatso Manoeli, director of DGMT’s early childhood development portfolio. “And when they can read well, they can learn well. The troubling reality in South Africa is that eight out of 10 children in Grade 4 cannot read for meaning. This is a problem we, as a country, can and must address.”
To help distribute the books, FNB will use logistics company, DSV, to ensure the books get to those who can benefit most. Three organisations committed to nurturing the development of children in under-resourced communities – Nal’ibali, SmartStart and The Unlimited Child (TUC) – will each receive consignments of books to use in their programmes.
Approximately 80 000 children between the ages of three and 10 are likely to benefit from the initiative, with books going to Nal’ibali reading clubs, The Unlimited Child crèches, SmartStart playgroups, as well as pre-schools participating in FNB’s “adopt a crèche” programme.
“Access to books is not enough. Children also need adults who listen, talk, play and read with them if they are to develop optimally – particularly in the years before school. In fact, reading aloud to children in the early years has been found to be associated with language growth, early literacy and reading achievement in school. However, in South Africa, only 5% of parents read to their children – at all, let alone daily,” says Dr. David Harrison, CEO of DGMT. “Each of the selected organisations uses books and stories in their programmes as an endless source of wonder and enjoyment for children; to introduce new language and ideas and most importantly, to inspire a love of reading. These books are a way for us to recognise and support their efforts because, at the end of the day, the ability to read is critical not only for our children’s later success in life, but for our collective social development as a nation.”
Books For Africa: believes that education is the great equaliser in the world, and the books are at the foundation of a strong educational system. It is the largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent.
Nal’ibali: through its network of reading clubs, literacy mentors, media campaigns as well as the development of children’s stories in all 11 official languages, Nal’ibali works to root reading habits in children’s daily lives.
SmartStart: delivers early learning at scale through a social franchise model made up of a network of licensed practitioners, who help ensure that all children have the right foundations in place to succeed at school and beyond.
The Unlimited Child: a national non-profit initiative that gives children in disadvantaged crèches a headstart in life with programmes designed to enrich the development of babies, toddlers and pre-Grade R children.