19 March 2019

South Africa: For the Love of Books

Libraries across the country are celebrating SA Library Week, which aims to promote a reading culture in South Africa.

Led by the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA), the theme for this year's celebrations is 'Collaborate @ your library'.

This directs action to working together, sharing resources, forming teams, developing relationships and partnerships, indicating that libraries and communities from all walks of life will derive mutual benefit from forging relationships.

Government has encouraged South Africans to use the week to read books written in indigenous languages and by African writers. This will ensure that the country's diversity and unique heritage unite South Africans.

Furthermore, government called on South Africans to use the week to support the culture of reading and incorporate it into their daily lifestyles - especially among the children.

Research shows that children who enjoy reading not only perform better in school but also develop a broader vocabulary and increased general knowledge.

Government believes that Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres' programmes lay the foundation for improved reading and comprehension.

Other initiatives by government aimed at promoting the reading culture include the collaboration between the National Education Collaboration Trust and the Department of Basic Education's Read to Lead Campaign which gave birth to the National Reading Coalition (NRC).

The National Reading Coalition brings together leaders in education, community, non-profit, government, and the private sector to improve children's literacy by mobilising and coordinating the reading initiatives of various players in South Africa.

The coalition builds on many other initiatives such as the outreach programme known as the Funda Mzantsi Project, which was established to improve the reading habits of South Africans, by instilling the love of reading.

The Funda Mzantsi Project was in response to the survey conducted by the South African Book Development Council in 2007 on general reading habits in South African communities. The survey revealed that South Africa is not a reading nation.

Since then, the country has made progress with the percentage of individuals over the age of 20 years who could be regarded as functionally illiterate declining from 28.5% in 2002 to 13.7% in 2017.

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