South African parents not reading to toddlers

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Stats SA says nearly half of South African children between zero and four years have never had their parents or guardian read with them.

Stats SA released its General Household Survey which revealed that 47,6% of children between zero and four never read a book with a parent or guardian. Half of South African children between those ages stay at home with a parents or guardian and do not go to a crèche or day care centre.  The study also found that 44.7% of the children never had a parents or guardian draw with them, 36.8% never have parents tell them stories.

Lizelle Langsord from Read Education Trust says children are first exposed to language while in their mothers wombs and this should continue after they are born.

If children are not read to at a young age, it will have an impact on development including delayed development of the brain and language.


Last year a study by International Reading Literacy Study showed that eight out of ten 9-year-olds in South Africa are functionally illiterate.

Langsord says there is a direct link to the findings by International Reading Literacy Study and the one by Stats SA. She says if children are not being read to from zero to four years, this will have an effect on learning in their school years.

“Everything comes together, now we are sitting with a deficit. It impacts how they learn home languages, it impacts the quantity of vocabulary and thought process is delayed,” says Langsord.

The study found the most popular activity for parents to stimulate their children is naming different things and counting.

Approximately 42,8% of South African children aged zero to years attended day-care or educational facilities outside their homes. The highest attendance was reported in Gauteng at 55,5% and the lowest enrolment in KwaZulu-Natal at 30,9%.