Mar 2019 2nd Edition

Creating a culture of reading in SA

Written by Jauhara Khan

Reading to your children regularly will inspire them to want to read, and help them establish a satisfying, lifelong relationship with books and reading.

Literacy is a strong indicator of future success. Children who read regularly perform better at school than those who do not, with research reinforcing the link between reading for pleasure and improved academic results.

However, the results of the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study placed South Africa last out of 50 participating countries. The study revealed that 78 percent of Grade 4 children in South Africa cannot read for meaning in any language.

A well-established culture of reading could be a real game-changer for education in South Africa, said Nal’ibali spokesperson Sally du Preez.

“Children who regularly read and hear engaging stories, in languages they understand, are well equipped and motivated to learn to read and write.”

Nal’ibali is a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign aimed at sparking children’s potential through reading and story-telling. It publishes and distributes newspaper supplements, books, story collections and magazines, runs reading clubs, and trains communities across the country to encourage the habit of reading and writing in children.  

Tips to nurture a love of reading at home, in the classroom and within the community:

  • Enjoy yourself when reading to your children. If you do, they will learn that reading is a pleasurable activity;
  • Share stories when your children find it easy to settle down, like after bath time or just before they go to sleep at night;
  • Younger children or children who are tired often find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time, so do not read for too long;
  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to read. Turn off any computers, TVs and radios;
  • Read with as much expression as you can − your children will appreciate it!
  • Find ways to draw them into the story as you read. For example, ask them what they think might happen next, discuss one of the pictures or ask them to turn the pages for you;
  • Once your children can read, do not stop reading to them! Choose books that are more difficult and complex than the ones they can read on their own.

 For more information about Nal’ibali, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit; and

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