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78% of grade four learners in SA cannot read for meaning. Read the managing director at Nal'ibali's response on solving the country's illiteracy crisis

Jade Jacobsohn, managing director at Nal’ibali

 
Jade Jacobsohn, managing director at Nal’ibali, recently wrote the following response to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report highlighting SA literacy levels. The report sheds light on South Africa’s devastating literacy crisis, revealing that 78% of grade four learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning. Here’s what Jacobsohn recommends we do to solve the country’s disastrous illiteracy rates:

Where will you be in ten years’ time? Whether it’s a growing business or growing family, we all make plans for our future. Yet our future selves are either enabled or limited by our broader context. So, what is our national context in a generation’s time?

Results from a global literacy study last week paint a devastating picture. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) assessing children’s reading comprehension has placed South African children last in fifty countries

The stats? 78% of Grade Four learners in South Africa cannot read for basic meaning in any national language. In other words, eight out of ten nine-year-olds in South Africa are currently functionally illiterate.

This survey presents the socio-economic equivalent of Cape Town’s taps running dry on Day Zero. Simply put, it’s the most urgent wake-up call our country has had on what our future looks like, and we need to respond accordingly.

There’s a reason the PIRLS test targeted Grade Fours. The age is a tipping point: if a child remains functionally illiterate at age nine, there is a strong correlation to them remaining so, which in turn leads to an inevitably steep school drop-out shelf.

A 78% illiteracy rate in Grade Four means the next generation will enter the workforce without these very basic skills needed to raise themselves out of poverty. It means a generation without the capacity to learn, to teach, to lead. More alarmingly, it means a generation unable to pass along literacy to their own children, exacerbating the situation still further with every passing year.

In the United States, there is an alarmingly precise correlation between the number of illiterate third grade boys and future incarceration statistics (the United States, for reference, scored just 4% on the PIRLS survey). In South Africa, boys have fallen behind to such an extent that they are now a full year of learning behind girls of the same age – the second highest gender gap in the world.

The PIRLS survey also attempted to quantify social inhibitors to education, such as bullying amongst peers. The results? We are also world leaders there, with 42% of South African Grade Fours experiencing bullying weekly (by comparison, 15% of learners reported the same experience in the US and UK).

What kind of future can we build when our children cannot build empathy?

Government is putting urgent plans in place to secure our resources – sustainable water, electricity supply and so on. We all weigh in on these because South Africans care about what our country looks like and we’re willing to make a noise when we feel a lack of leadership on these matters.

Where is the noise here?

If literacy is everybody’s problem, then it’s also everybody’s solution.

These results need to be the rallying call to the heart of our nation.

The good news – and there is much of it – is that change can happen. After all, Japan and more recently Chile, turned around their literacy rates by simply making it a holistic national priority.

But how do we start with a similar approach in South Africa? Where do we begin?

Take heart that many of us began a long time ago. NGOs have determinedly been stepping up to the plate, introducing and quietly maintaining extraordinary, effective, and targeted initiatives to support literacy development across the country.

Nal’ibali, for example, operates country-wide to spark children’s potential by creating opportunities for children to fall in love with books and stories in home languages as well as English. Research proves that regular reading and a strong foundation of language in children’s mother tongues are two of the most significant indicators of future academic success – even more than socio-economic status. That’s food for thought in a country where the poverty trap seems inescapable.

We are hardly tackling this problem alone – it takes a nation to nurture a reading culture and Nal’ibali works hand-in-hand with hundreds of partners. Together we’ve seen extraordinary successes in our five years of operation. We are fighting the odds and winning; helping to root a culture of reading in South African by immersing children, caregivers, and communities in great and well told stories in relaxed and meaningful ways rather than focusing on the mechanical literacy instruction so common in the classroom.

We are weaving a web of support and creative solutions that, given enough backing, will catch our learners when they fall through the cracks of the formal education system. Just imagine what we could do if our work was amplified and enthusiastically championed across the country!

It’s time for us to join forces.

Those who can’t in financial or practical terms can still play a vital part, simply by picking up a book. Reading or giving a good book to one child may feel like a tiny act, but the ramifications of these small, everyday actions can have startling consequences down the line. Stories teach us at a linguistic level – the basic vocabulary, spelling and grammar pour in unconsciously. But stories also teach us at a human level – they help us to imagine worlds and possibilities that are different to the ones we are currently experiencing.

In South Africa, right now, that’s surely a talent that every one of us needs to learn to develop.

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign or to access children’s stories in a range of SA languages visit www.nalibali.org and www.nalibali.mobi or find us on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA.

Ontdek die wêreld deur die oë van Oliver Scherz se besonders verbeeldingryke Ben!

Ben is ’n Indiaan, skatsoeker en kaskarbestuurder. Ben is sommer enigiets wat hy wil wees.

En sy troeteldierskilpad gaan oral saam.

Of hulle nou as dapper Indiane (skelmpies) Ben se ouboet se boomhuis gaan verken, of in die spruitjie gaan toets of Meneer Skillie nie dalk vinniger in die water is as op land nie …

Enige uitstappie is pret, en ’n wêreld van avonture wag op hulle.

Die stories is vanuit die seuntjie se perspektief vertel en is hartlik en snaaks.

Boekbesonderhede

Launch: My Great Expedition by Justin Fox (9 December)


 
Event Details

Quality education begins at home: read Jenny Hobbs's advice on fixing South Africa's literacy crisis

“Education is the new weapon in the liberation struggle, and our youth must arm themselves with books.”
Adelaide Tambo

 

The literacy crisis among South Africa’s youth is worse than expected. It was recently announced that eight out of 10 grade four pupils still cannot ‘read at appropriate level’. Dr Nic Spaull of Sellenbosch University is quoted saying that an inability to read properly means ‘many pupils never get a firm grasp on the first rung of the academic ladder and fall further and further behind.’

Co-creator and former managing director of the Franschhoek Literary Festival (and author!), Jenny Hobbs, composed the following piece on the necessity of nurturing a love of reading among children, including helpful tips on encouraging a reading culture in South Africa:

Here’s the important thing about quality education: it starts with you, parents and caregivers, from the time babies are born. Talking and singing to them, giving them words and songs and stories, is the best way to ensure that they learn to talk and read confidently. These are the building blocks of education and success in life.

• Parents, gogos, caregivers and child minders: talk and sing often to babies and toddlers, passing on the magic of spoken words and singing.
• Speak from the beginning in your mother tongues, adding words and songs from other languages (especially English) as they grow. Languages are easily picked up by small kids and you will be giving them invaluable free skills.
• As soon as they can sit on your lap, tell them stories and read to them from books, magazines or catalogues, letting them turn the pages – however clumsily! – to discover the excitements on the next page.
• Encourage them to talk, chat and tell their own stories. Teach them the songs you sang and the games you played, family history and traditions. Children who own many words talk easily with friends and adults.
• Take them as young as you can to libraries to enjoy exciting, different books and choose some to bring home. Municipal and community libraries are free, and librarians are always ready to help with advice.
• Give children books as presents. Ask at the library for the late, great Chris van Wyk’s Ouma Ruby’s Secret, which tells the story of how his loving grandma bought him books in second-hand shops, always asking him to choose and then read them out loud to her. He only realised when he grew older that she couldn’t read – like so many elders who were denied education.

• Seeing parents read newspapers and books is inspiring for children. Keep books in your home and make reading a cool thing to do.
• All reading is good reading. Look for book sales and street vendors selling comics and well-priced picture and story books. Visit a library to access the online South African book sites for children and teens.
• Enrol children as soon as possible in early learning centres to expose them to new skills and the first formal steps to reading.
• Fight harder and more fiercely for schools with libraries that actively promote reading and a culture of independent learning.

Note: The government mandates weekly library lessons in schools which all receive library allocations, but random bookshelves are not enough. Libraries need assistants to help readers and control the books. For more information, see the downloadable school library booklet at http://www.flf.co.za/schools/.

• Link older children and teens with the FunDza Literacy Trust for daily reading on their cellphones.
• Readers should recommend books they’ve enjoyed and circulate personal libraries in their communities. Record who has borrowed each book by taking a cellphone photo with them holding it.

Surely it’s time for VAT on books to be abolished – it’s a tax on learning!

Online sites for South African children’s & young adult books:

Biblionef: http://biblionefsa.org.za/
Book Dash: http://bookdash.org/
Children’s Book Network: www.childrensbook.co.za
Fundza: www.fundza.co.za
Nal’ibali: http://nalibali.org/
Wordworks: http://www.wordworks.org.za/

11-year-old Lindiwe Makhoba from Mangaung, Bloemfontein, the 2017 winner of Nal’ibali’s annual Story Bosso contest

 

Quotes about reading to live by:

It is my wish that the voice of the storyteller will never die in Africa, that all children in the world may experience the wonder of books, and that they will never lose the capacity to enlarge their earthly dwelling place with the magic of stories. – Nelson Mandela

The key to a healthy society is a thriving community of storytellers. Stories are what really make us human. – Franco Sacchi

Reading books at home is an important part of the early development of children during which they confront in a pleasurable activity those human passions of love and hate, of ambition and desire, of change and hope. – Jonathan Jansen

If we want to break down barriers between ourselves across race, linguistic and cultural lines, we must promote reading. Fiction forces you to live in other people’s worlds. It develops our empathetic capacities … it can and does help to build bridges. Reading will help us to humanise each other. In a time of violence, we must spread the word about the power of books to make South African life a little easier. – Eusebius McKaiser

A book can change your life. You can read yourself out of poverty. – Annari van der Merwe

Books not only change the mind, they can change the course of society. – Jonathan Jansen

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture – just get people to stop reading them. – Ray Bradbury

Asterix, Obelix en Kasterolix is terug in twee opwindende nuwe titels! Wat voer die Romeine dié keer in die mou?


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Asterix en die groot moles
Outeur: René Goscinny
Illustreerder: Albert Uderzo
Vertaler: Sonya van Schalkwyk-Barrois

Julius Caesar wend hom tot sielkundige oorlogvoering … Ignasius Vullus, die Romeinse agent, maak moeilikheid en onder die Galliërs en probeer hulle beïnvloed om mekaar van verraad te verdink. Het Asterix regtig die geheim van die towerdrankie aan die Romeine verkoop? Sal Asterix, Obelix en Kasterolix die glibberige Ignasius Vullus kan uitoorlê en vrede in die dorpie herstel?

Asterix en die groot moles is die 15de boek in die gewilde Asterix-reeks.

Asterix in Helvesië
Outeur: René Goscinny
Illustreerder: Albert Uderzo
Vertaler: Sonya van Schalkwyk-Barrois

Quaestor Claudius Sinusitus is op die punt om die Romeinse goewerneur Oppus Dissevirus se duistere geldsake aan die lig te bring, maar hy word vergiftig. Sinusitus roep Kasterolix se hulp in en Asterix en Obelix moet na Helvesië reis om ’n skaars blom te gaan pluk wat Sinusitus se lewe sal red. Bankkluise, koekkoekuurglase, ’n gejodel en gate in die kaas sorg dat Asterix en Obelix die kultuur in Helvesië ten volle beleef.

Asterix in Helvesië is die 16de boek in die gewilde Asterix-reeks.

Sonya van Schalkwyk-Barrois woon in Parys, Frankryk. Sy het in Stellenbosh gestudeer en beskik oor ’n Magistergraad in Frans. Sy is onder meer die vertaler van die Kuifie-boeke.
 

Boekbesonderhede

Giveaway! Win a copy of Storytime: 10 South African stories for children

BooksLIVE, in collaboration with Nal’ibali, will be giving away 10 copies of Storytime: 10 South African stories for children – and just in time for the impending 2018 school year!

The first Sunday Times Storybook was launched three years ago to allow children from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience the magic of stories, especially in their own languages. The Sunday Times has distributed two million copies of the first book in all 11 official languages free of charge to school, libraries and reading clubs across the country.

Storytime is a delightful collection of new stories by skilled writers such as Wendy Hartmann, Chris van Wyk, Maryanne Bester, Carole Bloch, Kagiso Legeso Molope, and Tuelo Gabonewe. Various illustrators contributed to the selection of enchanting stories, including Joan Rankin, Paddy Bouma, Shayle Bester, with a gorgeous cover by none other than Madam & Eve‘s Rico!

“We have been fortunate to work with a number of talented South African authors and illustrators in putting together this magical collection of stories. A treasured storybook can be just the thing to spark a love of reading in children and this is precisely our intention – to skill children to become readers for life,” comments Patti McDonald, publisher of Times Media Education’s supplements.

“Books and stories deepen our thinking and understanding by stretching our imagination while encouraging creative problem-solving. To have stories that our children can relate to in their home languages is an invaluable asset that we need to keep growing in our country,” adds Dr Carole Bloch, Director of PRAESA.

If you would like to receive a copy of Storytime, simply tell us why it’s so important to nurture a love of stories and reading among school children who have limited access to books. E-mail your answer to Patti (Patti.McDonald@tisoblackstar.co.za), and always remember the profound words of Nelson Mandela: “It is my wish that the voice of the storyteller will never die in Africa, that all children in the world may experience the wonder of books, and that they will never lose the capacity to enlarge their earthly dwelling place with the magic of stories.”