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"Reading is a powerful force in society and connects us to the thoughts and ideas of people across space and time" - a Q&A with Theresa Giorza, literacies activist and PhD researcher

Published in the Sunday World: 20 May 2018; Daily Dispatch 21 May 2018; Herald 24 May 2018

By Carla Lever

Children decide in pairs which picture we are are going to discuss to follow our question: “Can a street be a classroom?” Here, two girls vote for a picture showing a collection of cut-out mermaids and fairies. Photographer: Daniel Born

Can you tell us a little about your research?

I’m really interested in the ways that children create stories but also connect with everyday objects, situations and spaces. My research has been about finding out how children make meaning by engaging with their surroundings. I’ve recently experimented with the question of whether a street can be a classroom and uncovered a whole lot of new ways of thinking about public spaces and children’s learning.

Why is children’s literacy such a passion for you?

Actually I like to talk about ‘literacies’ rather than ‘literacy’ because I see children expressing themselves through so many different means, many of them not needing words at all. Drawing is probably the most well supported story-making children’s language that is acknowledged by adults, but there are so many more!

Your work must have taken you to some interesting places and situations! Can you tell us some of the most memorable moments with children and storytelling?

The most remarkable things have happened when I have been able to return to a group of children I have worked with. The way that the slow, thoughtful processing of ideas works over time and re-emerges in different expressions is always surprising. Children develop their own favorite themes that can be seen as the beginning of their ‘literacy’ practice – even if there are no words involved!

What are the biggest everyday things all of us can do to make a difference with literacy acquisition and a love for books in our families and communities?

The two most important things are so simple: to have really good conversations and to be interested in the world! The key to having good conversations is to be interested in how people, including the very smallest people, see things and in what they think about the world.

What are some of the most creative South African teaching solutions you’ve encountered in response to lack of resources or challenging conditions?

The use of an ‘enquiry-based’ approach to learning is really creative. It’s a form of learning where children are encouraged to ask questions and explore ideas themselves as a way into a topic, rather than just being told facts. Philosophy with Children, for example, is an enquiry-based approach that uses picture books to explore ideas in a space in which the ideas and questions of children lead the session instead of the teacher.

Why is reading together with children – and by oneself around children – so important?

Reading is a powerful force in society and connects us to the thoughts and ideas of people across space and time! Reading is at the centre of the way we learn and communicate, so it’s important that we invite children in as new readers as early as possible and establish reading as an enjoyable and inclusive activity.

What positive changes do you think we can realistically expect to see in the next five years in South African literacies or education?

One positive change I anticipate is for parents and families to really come on board in promoting children’s literacies. We need to educate parents about the importance of all the ‘literacies’ their children can explore before being introduced to school instruction – creative expression in storytelling, music, drawing and pattern making. Even more positive changes will come when ‘formal’ literacy learning embraces the abilities that children have for creating meaning, inventing narratives and engaging with the world together.

From Sunday April 15, Nal’ibali will be publishing its supplements in two new languages. An English-Setswana edition will be published in the Sunday World in the North West, and an English-Xitsonga edition will be donated to reading clubs in Limpopo. Clubs in both provinces will collect their copies from select post offices. The post offices (10 in each province) will also have 50 additional editions each to give away to member of the public.

#CatchMeReading: Nal'ibali to launch a nationwide book exchange on 26 May

Issued by Petunia Thulo on behalf of Nal’ibali


‘Books are a uniquely portable magic’ – Stephen King

There is no substitute for books in the life of a child. Which is why the NGO The Nal’ibali Trust, is expanding on its reading-for-enjoyment campaign, to initiate a national book exchange project on the 26th of May. Jade Jacobsohn, Nal’ibali’s Managing Director says, “Literacy Mentors across the country will be hosting public book exchange events, where everyone is encouraged to bring and swap a book, enjoy storytelling and read-aloud sessions, and find out more about how they can read and share stories effectively with their children.”

How it works

  • The book exchange welcomes books of any variety; printed or handmade books for adults or children can be swapped.
  • Those bringing books to exchange will receive a special sticker which can be placed on the inside cover.
  • The sticker provides an opportunity for the previous owner to inscribe their name and location before passing it on.

Illiteracy is the academic handbrake
A recent study by PIRLS states that 78% of Grade 4’s in South Africa are illiterate. All the more worrying when the ability to read in Grade 4 is regarded as crucial. From Grades 1 to 3 you learn to read, but from Grades 4 to 12 you read to learn.

“If a learner is unable to read properly, they will never get a firm grasp on the first rung of the academic ladder and will fall further and further behind,” says Stellenbosch University education expert, Nic Spaull.

Although parents have high aspirations for their children, many are not aware that reading is a powerful way to help them reach their potential. Research shows that only 35% of adults read regularly to their children and very few are readers themselves. But teachers, parents and caregivers can play a significant role in children’s literacy development. The Nal’ibali book exchange is an easy and fun way for caregivers and adults to start to model positive reading behaviors and become reading role models for their children.

Reading is learning to fly
“Academics aside,” says Jacobsohn, “Children who learn to read fluently take a flight into a whole new world, fueled by imagination and buoyed by curiosity.”

But they can’t do it alone. The book exchange intends to encourage adults and children to engage actively in fun literacy behaviors.

“We recognise and respect the power and potential of communities in literacy development and are working to build a nation of people who are interested and passionate about storytelling, reading and writing. We want to ensure that every child has at least one reading role model who uses reading and writing in meaningful ways with them, who encourages them to read, and who supports them through the provision of books and other literacy materials.”

You need literary materials to learn to read
Access to literacy materials is one of the biggest barriers faced by South Africans to get reading, the book exchange is just one of the ways that Nal’ibali is supporting the circulation of books and stories in mother tongue languages.

Other Nal’ibali projects to promote reading
Continues Jacobsohn, “Nal’ibali also produces bilingual newspaper supplements every two weeks, during term time. The print rich material includes stories, literacy activities, reading and reading club tips and support, to inspire and guide parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians and reading clubs, to make reading and storytelling meaningful, enjoyable, and accessible.

“There’s also weekly broadcasts of audio stories in all 11 SA languages and a network of over 1 000 reading clubs in six provinces. First prize is to bring reading-for-enjoyment into homes, schools and communities.”

Ambassadors for reading
Supporting the drive, South African public figures will not only be bringing along their own books to swap at exchanges in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and Limpopo, but will be signing up to Nal’ibali’s volunteer network – FUNda Leader – too.

But it’s not just for celebs, FUNda Leader is open to anyone who would like to champion literacy in their communities. Those who sign up will receive specialised training to build and nurture literacy amongst children. Members of the public interested in becoming a FUNda Leader can sign up at the exchange or online at Nal’ibali’s website,

South Africans are also encouraged to hold and host their own book exchanges. The specially designed posters and stickers are available for download from the website.

“With opportunities to browse through different books, sit down and read or page through story books with children or simply get chatting with other community members about the books you have read, or will be reading, the book exchange promises to be a fun activity for all ages. We’re excited to share tips and ideas with all adults and anyone who wants to nurture a love of reading with children. And, with May being ‘Get Caught Reading Month’, there really is every reason to get down to your local book exchange!”

After all, a book is a dream you can hold in your hand, and the future belongs to those who believe in the possibilities of dreams.

For more information about Nal’ibali or its nationwide book-exchange drive, visit the Nal’ibali website ( and or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

READ Educational Trust: celebrating the freedom to learn, this Africa Day!

Written on behalf of READ Educational Trust

On 25 May 2018 we celebrate Africa Day; a day marking the independence of 28 African countries from European colonisers. While South Africa only became part of the original organisation in 1994, our country became the founding member of the African Union, officially launched in 2002.

For READ Educational Trust, a non-profit organisation promoting literacy amongst the poorest of the poor for nearly 40 years, this day is about far more than liberation. It’s about the freedom to learn; the freedom to explore and be educated, and at the very core, it’s about access to reading and literacy.

READ’S reason for being has always been to bring change to the lives of disadvantaged children in South Africa through education. Sadly, after 38 years since the organisation’s inception, we still see the majority of young learners being negatively impacted by a range of social and economic inequalities. These children in predominantly rural areas face a childhood of adversity.

There is inadequate access to healthcare, education, social services and quality nutrition. This has undermined the development of these learners, resulting in significant deficits that limit educational progress.

This limited progress was highlighted in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report, released in December 2017. A staggering 80% of South African Grade 4 learners cannot read with comprehension. South Africa’s average score is 261 points below countries like The Russian Federation, Singapore and Ireland. This difference represents six school years – meaning that our Grade 8 learners, entering secondary education, are reading at the same level as Grade 2 learners in these countries. Our top achievers are at the same mean level score as the lowest 25% performing countries. Over the past five years, our learners (including the top achievers) have not progressed at all. Rural learners are three years below their urban counterparts.

READ has successfully addressed some of these issues over the years, thanks to the implementation of Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programmes that assist caregivers, educators and principals of ECD Centres in overcoming our country’s challenges. READ also provides practical training, hands-on support and valuable resources which have been shown to be extremely effective.

The need, however, is both dire and vast. A collective effort can change the face of South Africa. The only way to succeed is for governments, non-profit organisations, big business and private individuals to stand together and do all they can to combat illiteracy by actively promoting and funding reading and educational incentives.

Visit to find out more and join the conversations on:


Twitter:, Instagram:

Call for Joburg creatives to make free children's books

Marco Viale se Gaap is ’n uitstekende boek vir ouers wat sukkel om kleintjies aan die slaap te maak!

Het jy al ooit probeer om op te hou gaap? Dis onmoontlik!
Dis soos om te probeer om die reën te laat ophou val. Of soos om jou ouers te oorreed dat sjokolade jou vinniger sal laat groei as groenbone.
As ’n gaap kom, moet dit nie onderdruk nie, want netnou raak jy aan die slaap!

Hierdie is ’n uitstekende boek vir ouers wat sukkel om kleintjies aan die slaap te maak! Niemand kan met hierdie boek ’n GAAP onderdruk nie!

Marco Viale is in ’n klein Italiaanse kusdorpie gebore. Hy is outeur en illustreerder, skilder, en het veel van sy werke in hoofkunsgalerye in Italië en Suid-Frankryk uitgestal. Die uitgewerye met wie hy al gewerk het, sluit in DeAgostini, Mondadori, Einaudi, Ravensburger, Pearson en Usborne. In 2013 is die nasionale Italiaanse prys “Nati per Leggere 2013″ aan hom toegeken en in 2014 wen hy die “Il Mangialibro 2014″-kompetisie vir La città dei lupi blu.


Shortlists for 2018 Media24 Books Awards announced

Media24 Books is proud to announce the shortlists for the 2018 Media24 Books Literary Awards.

This year, prizes to the value of R210 000 in total will be awarded in six categories.

These annual awards serve to recognise the best work published during the previous year by Media24 book publishers including NB Publishers (through imprints such as Human & Rousseau, Tafelberg, Kwela and Queillerie) as well as Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Independent judging panels compiled the shortlists from 80 submissions in total. The shortlists consist of three titles each, apart from the Elizabeth Eybers Poetry Prize where an exceptionally strong field saw four titles included on the shortlist.

The shortlists, in alphabetical order according to author, are:

Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English Fiction (novels, short stories, drama)

The Life of Worm and Other Misconceptions by Ken Barris (Kwela)
I am Pandarus by Michiel Heyns (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
Being Kari by Qarnita Loxton (Kwela)

Recht Malan Prize for Nonfiction

How to Steal a City by Crispian Olver (Jonathan Ball Publishers)
The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw (Tafelberg)
Khwezi: The Story of Fezekile Kuzwayo by Redi Tlhabi (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

WA Hofmeyr Prize for Afrikaans Fiction (novels, short stories, drama)

As in die mond by Nicole Jaekel Strauss (Queillerie)
Die wêreld van Charlie Oeng by Etienne van Heerden (Tafelberg)
Groen soos die hemel daarbo by Eben Venter (Tafelberg)

Elisabeth Eybers Prize for Poetry

Nou, hier by Corné Coetzee (Human & Rousseau)
Radbraak by Jolyn Phillips (Human & Rousseau)
Alles het niet kom wôd by Nathan Trantraal (Kwela)
In die stille agterkamer by Marlene van Niekerk (Human & Rousseau)

MER Prize for Youth Novels

Hap by Lesley Beake (Tafelberg)
Blou is nie ’n kleur nie by Carin Krahtz (Tafelberg)
Soen by Jan Vermeulen (Tafelberg)

MER Prize for Illustrated Children’s Books

The All Africa Wildlife Express by Rosamund Haden and Tony Pinchuck (illustrator)
Karel Kraai se kitaar by Louise Smit and Luan Serfontein (illustrator)
Liewe Heksie en die sterretjieskombuis – based on the original story by Verna Vels and illustrated by Vian Oelofsen.

The winner in each category receives R35 000. The MER Prize for Illustrated Children’s Books is shared by the author and illustrator of the winning title.

The awards function will be held in Cape Town on Thursday 14 June 2018.

The Life of Worm

Book details


I am Pandarus


Being Kari


How To Steal A City


The President's Keepers




As in die Mond


Die wêreld van Charlie Oeng


Groen soos die hemel daarbo


Nou, hier




Alles het niet kom wôd


In die stille agterkamer




Blou is nie 'n kleur nie




All Africa Wildlife Express


Karel Kraai se kitaar


Liewe Heksie en die Sterretjieskombuis