This Friday marks the 10th annual World Read Aloud Day, a campaign aimed at reading aloud to children across the globe.
Spearheaded by LitWorld, Nal’ibali has been driving the literacy campaign in South Africa since 2013, with an initial number of 13 000 children reached that year. In the past six years the campaign has grown exponentially, with more than a million children participating last year.
This year Nal’ibali aims to break that record by hitting the 1.5 million mark.
Sally du Preez, spokesperson at Nal’ibali, said they were hoping to break that record through partners and literary volunteers and activists.
“Most of the teaching that happens in a child’s year is oral. Being able to recognise and understand a wide pool of words better equips children to learn and succeed in the classroom,” she told City Press.
Reading aloud, Du Preez said, forms the building blocks of literacy and learning “and not only shows children the value of books, but starts discussions, builds bonds between the reader and the audience and motivates children to learn to read and enjoy books beyond their current reading ability”.
Part of the drive towards ensuring childrenare reading aloud emanates from the dire statistics the country has seen coming out of the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literary Study results, which showed that a whopping 78% of grade 4 learners could not read for meaningin any language.
The study was commissioned by the basic education department.
Du Preez said factors that contribute towards this scary reality include the lack of access to reading materials as well as the lack of reading materials in indigenous languages.
“Ninety-two percent of primary schools lack functional libraries, 85% of the population live beyond the easy reach of a public library and more than half of South African households have no leisure books at all,” she said.
Despite this, there is still hope.
“The good news is that there is a huge potential to turn South Africa’s literacy crisis around through simple, yet effective, activities such as reading aloud.
“Nal’ibali encourages caregivers to start sharing stories with their children right from birth and not wait for their children to go to school to learn to read,” Du Preez said.
She encouraged an early introduction to books to provide a boost to a child’s cognitive skills, language skills, creativity, empathy and curiosity.
This year the book, which can be downloaded in all 11 languages from Nal’ibali, is titled Where Are You? and is written by South African author and illustrator Ann Walton.
It tells the story of Nal’ibali characters Afrika and Dintle, who find themselves separated from their mother during a shopping trip. Download the book at the Nal’ibali website nalibali.org, where pledges can be made by members of the public to read aloud and add their voices to the campaign.
To commemorate the day the campaign’s ambassador, children’s author and social activist Lebohang Masango, will attend a special event at the Sandton Library on the morning of February 1, where 200 children from Soweto and Alexandra will be waiting in anticipation to hear the story.
The children will be treated to a multilingual reading of Where Are You? by Masango.