Philani Dladla, or “The Pavement Bookworm”, as he has become popularly known, will be delivering a talk during the TEDxJohannesburg event this Thursday, 21 August.
The 24-year-old’s story is extraordinary by any measure, as he went from life on the street – reviewing books through car windows for cash – to becoming the founder of a literacy project and Book Reader’s Club for underprivileged children in Johannesburg.
Dladla was born in Port Shepstone in KwaZulu-Natal. His story began when he received an unlikely gift:
Here, he attended a small, rural school which taught its pupils in isiZulu. When Philani received a book from his mother’s employer, he realised that in order to understand what the words meant, he would have to learn English. Even though it was a heavy, non-fiction book about politics, it was the first birthday gift he had ever received and Philani loved it. He read it over and over, grappling with the difficult language. “It was a challenge for me. But I wanted to know what was so special about this book.”
And he will tell anyone who asks that his favourite childhood book was, in fact, The Last White Parliament (by F van Zyl Slabbert). It was his only book.
However, after school Dladla moved to Johannesburg, where he fell into drug abuse and found himself living on the streets. It was during this time that his love of reading resurfaced, and he began reviewing books for passers-by on Empire Road, near the University of the Witwatersrand, instead of begging.
After being featured in a short on YouTube by filmmaker Tebogo Malope in November last year (see below), Dladla’s story went viral, being shared widely on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and featured on the Huffington Post, Reddit, 9GAG, Funny Junk, 101 Books, and locally on The Herald and Nal’ibali.
Now Dladla is set to deliver his own TEDx talk. He recently took part in a Twitter Q&A, where he chatted about his life, saying: “a good book written by one man can transform Thousands of lives.a good book can force you to change”.
Read the Twitter interview:
Watch Malope’s video:
Philani is a 24 yr old Bookworm.a pavement bookworm to be more precise currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa.He basically bounces around different streets with his expansive library of books and at anybodies request reviews the books.He has read all the books in his collection and is always seeking for more to read.He then sells some of his books as a way to raise money for himself and some of his homeless friends.I’m appealing to anyone that can contribute somehow into his life,He’s a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people.
- Not playing? Watch on YouTube
Here’s how you can help Dladla and his family: