South Africa: MEC Debbie Schäfer On World Book Day

press release

Today is World Book Day, first celebrated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1995 to promote reading and publishing around the world.

The importance of reading at an early age cannot be overstated. In fact, without a solid grounding in basic literacy, a child will struggle with all other areas of learning, from introductory to advanced subjects.

Unfortunately, South Africa does not perform well in measures of literacy. The 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) found that 78% of our country's Grade 4 learners could not read for meaning in any language. While the Western Cape received far better scores than other provinces, there is still much work to be done.

Catching up once those early years have been missed is extremely difficult, so the earlier children start to read, the better.

So on this World Book Day, and in lockdown, I have recorded a story for younger children from one of our partner sites on the WCED ePortal so that parents can share it with their children. You can find this and many other stories on our WCED ePortal (, along with whole host of other educational resources.

Literacy is a strategic priority of the Western Cape Government, and as such, I am challenging Premier Alan Winde and the rest of the Western Cape Government ministers to record a story to share with our province's children.

I encourage all parents to read to their children, or with them if they are old enough to read themselves, today - and every day. Please see attached activities for learners to do every day, as well as a guide on how to assess your child's reading skills in Grade 1-3.

If you are unable to access the internet, or are worried that you don't have the right books, remember: a child can learn using a variety of reading materials in one's home - be it a book, magazine, newspaper, recipe or even the back of a washing powder packet.

Words are everywhere. Let them practice reading constantly!

During this extended lockdown, the greatest gift a parent can give their child is to inspire in them a love of reading. It is an investment in their education that will make all the difference to their learning when schools are able to reopen.

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