15 February 2019

South Africa: Grab a Book and Join the Reading Revolution

Drop everything for 30 minutes and read a book - that's the message from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga as she jumpstarted the reading revolution on Friday.

The Minister urged schools to set aside 30 minutes for reading for enjoyment every day and called on parents to support their children in practicing their reading skills each day. She further pressed businesses to adopt and sponsor reading resources for schools.

Motshekga, along with various social partners, made the calls at the launch of the National Reading Coalition (NRC) in Benoni, Ekurhuleni.

Under the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) and in partnership with the DBE, the launch introduced the NRC as a collaborative body where ideas can be developed and implemented to address the national reading challenge.

This comes just a week after President Cyril Ramaphosa, during the State of the Nation Address, made a clarion call for the country to improve its literacy levels and that starts with improving its reading capabilities.

In 2017, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) released a report about the poor and deteriorating literacy levels in SA. In its report, PIRLS found that 78% of Grade 4 learners are unable to read for meaning that means nearly eight out of 10 of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning.

This means kids cannot retrieve explicitly stated information or make straightforward inferences about events and reasons for actions.

In a bid to tackle this challenge, the launch of the NRC saw non-governmental organisations, teachers, policy makers and education stakeholders thrash out ideas to get the nation reading.

The NRC's national proposed plan recognises six areas deemed as critical in the improvement of reading which include initial teacher preparation, access to relevant resources, community support, continuous professional development, policy, research and evaluation.

NECT Chairperson Sizwe Nxasana said another step to improve reading is to create book clubs. He added that often boys and men are not part of book clubs and they are getting left behind.

Nxasana also made the point that in order to tackle the reading challenge, the country must work towards establishing mother tongue proficiency to ensure that learners read for meaning.

Entering into plenary discussions, delegates attending the launch agreed that to ensure a successful reading revolution, access to books must be prioritised.

"You cannot fall in love with someone you haven't met and the same goes for books. Children cannot learn to love books if they haven't been introduced to them," said Nal'ibali Managing Director Jade Jacobsohn.

Nal'ibali is a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign aimed at sparking children's potential through storytelling and reading.

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