Parents and caregivers are being encouraged to read aloud to their children. This is the message being sent out to mark World Read Aloud Day which is being celebrated on Thursday.
The National Reading for Enjoyment Campaign – Nal’ibali – is spearheading the campaign to get one million children or more to be read aloud.
Eleven-year-old Olwethu Mavimbela from Tshepisong, west of Johannesburg, is passionate about reading but prefers reading poetry books.
“I love reading and some of my books are poetry books. Being a poet relieves my heart.”
Ten-year-old Thandolwethu Silinga says he not only read to source information, but to get inspiration from books.
“Reading calms me and reading gives me information of things that I do not know. When I read I end up knowing things I didn’t know. Reading inspires me in my heart. Some of the things that I say come from the books, so the books inspire me to say things that I never knew that I could say.”
Every year Nal’ibali commissions a brand-new story for World Read Aloud Day. The story is then translated into the country’s 11 official languages before asking people to read the story aloud to the children. This year’s story has been written by acclaimed South African author, Zukiswa Wanner.
Nal’ibali has been facilitating the read-aloud sessions throughout the country. They say they have also ensured that children in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal also have an opportunity to take part.
“We have just realised, particularly with the latest study released, telling us an alarming percentage of children are unable to read for understanding or read for meaning. Now more than ever is a time for us to step in and encourage reading aloud to a child. It should be every day. One of the most important things a parent or grandparent, teacher or caregiver or volunteer can do for a child is to spend some time helping to read aloud to a child,” says Nal’bali spokesperson Ben Rycroft.
He says reading aloud, and particularly in home languages, exposes children to the sophisticated words and language not common in conversation.
“That child starts to develop his or her own curiosity, that child develops empathy, learns his own words. He develops vocabulary.”
Teachers from a primary school in Soweto say they too encourage their learners to read aloud. They say it not only helps them to understand the story better, but also boosts their confidence.
“It helps them to be able to speak to anybody confidently, because most children are very scared to speak especially if it is a different language. Reading is very important; it takes you to different countries. If you read, you enjoy places that you have never been to. It actually exposes kids from early childhood to know how to read and get their minds thinking,” says one of the teachers.”
The teachers have encouraged parents and caregivers to read to their children. “I would like them to read for their children so that they can be inspired by books. They must read bedtime stories to their children.”
They says because most of children’s early school learning takes place verbally and in their mother tongues, regular exposure to books and stories in home languages can provide them with an early academic boost that will see them right through their school years; sparking not only their minds and imaginations, but their curiosity and emotional development too.