‘Literacy is not a luxury; it’s a right and a responsibility.’
While education may be the most powerful weapon, reading aloud and storytelling are integral building blocks of learning. This is why Nal’ibali, a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign designed to spark children’s potential through storytelling and reading, was founded.
For the last seven years, Nal’ibali has been bringing a special story to children to celebrate World Read Aloud Day (WRAD). In the first year (2013), the campaign reached 13 000 children, while last year’s story was read to 1 559 730 children in a single day. On 5 February 2020, the target is to read aloud to over 2 million children.
Annually, Nal’ibali celebrates WRAD to draw attention to the importance of reading aloud to children in their mother tongue. The NGO commissions a brand-new story – best suited for reading aloud to primary school children – and translates it into all 11 official languages. The organisation urges parents, teachers and caregivers to join it in reading aloud to the children in their lives, on the same day.
Why read aloud?
Nal’ibali is built on the simple logic that a well-established culture of reading can be a real game-changer for education in South Africa. Literacy skills are a strong predictor of future academic success in all subjects. Children who regularly read and hear engaging stories, in languages they understand, are well-equipped and motivated to learn to read and write.
A new story is born
This year’s story, A Day to Remember, was written by well-known local author and early literacy expert, Lorato Trok. Trok wrote the story in Setswana, her mother tongue, after which it was translated into English and all the other official languages.
‘I find it interesting that when I’m commissioned to write a story, without question the default language of writing is English. However, for this story, it only came naturally once I decided to write it in Setswana. It made me realise how we underestimate the power of our own language!’ says Trok.
And, there are so many benefits to children having a deep understanding of their first language. For example, most of the teaching that happens in children’s early years is oral. Being able to recognise and understand a wide pool of words helps them to learn and succeed in the classroom. It also provides a good base from which to learn a second language, such as English.
Further, reading aloud has the following benefits:
- It allows children to experience reading as a satisfying and meaningful activity
- It motivates them to learn to read for themselves and then to keep reading
- It shows them how we read and how books work
- It allows them to enjoy stories that are beyond their current reading ability
- It develops their imagination, vocabulary and language abilities
Making it a day to remember
To commemorate WRAD, a special live reading event featuring this year’s ambassador, Manaka Ranaka, will take place at the Es'kia Mphahlele Community Library in Pretoria on Wednesday, 5 February. Ranaka (known for playing the character Lucy Diale in the SABC drama, Generations), will show her support for the importance of literacy by reading to 400 children from Pretoria and Sunnyside Primary Schools. Trok will also be in attendance to discuss the importance and power of home language.
Besides the big drive to read to 2 million children on WRAD, there are other events planned, which include:
- A community walk through the streets of various communities in six different provinces to promote the day. Story cards will be given out and members of the community will be invited to pledge to read. This will take place in the week starting on Monday, 20 January.
- A public pledge drive in local malls and shopping centres to encourage participation.
- Read-aloud sessions by Nal’ibali Literacy Mentors at schools, libraries or other partner sites on the day.
Spreading the word
In addition to promoting 2020’s story on digital and social media platforms, Nal’ibali’s network of partners, Literacy Mentors and FUNda Leader volunteers are encouraging all South Africans to read the special story with their children. They are also asking everyone to reach out to their networks and encourage others to be a part of South Africa’s literacy solution by pledging to read aloud at https://nalibali.org/WRAD-2020
‘The story can be downloaded free of charge from our website in any official language, from Wednesday, 15 January,’ says Ben Rycroft, Head of Communications at Nal’ibali. ‘However, we’d like to encourage South Africans to register their participation and to share pictures of their reading sessions online through our Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MyWRAD2020.’
Such is the impact of WRAD in South Africa that, according to the international organisers of WRAD – New York-based LitWorld – the Nal’ibali celebration is one of the biggest in the world.
If you would like to join the Nal’ibali World Read Aloud Day celebration:
1. Visit https://nalibali.org/WRAD-2020 to download the official story in any official language
2. Pledge the number of children you will be reading to
3. Share pictures of read-aloud sessions on the Nal’ibali Facebook and Twitter platforms: @NalibaliSA and use the hashtag #MyWRAD2020
For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, to sign up to be a FUNda Leader and join the FUNda Sonke loyalty programme, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit www.nalibali.mobi. You can also find Nal’ibali on Facebook and Twitter: @nalibaliSA.