Despite busy days – first as a university student and then as a businesswoman and author – Mbali Blaai (29) has always made time to read.
In fact, she attributes much of her success to falling in love with books in early primary school. The founder of Data Service Agency, co-founder of the Carletonville Book Club, author of The Invitation of a Reading Activist, and Sunday World Unsung Hero 2022 now makes time to inspire other people to read.
“Reading is upgrading and refuelling your mind. You can agree with me that no car can continue to move without fuel. I liken your mind to a car that regularly needs to be refuelled,” says Blaai, who is from Carletonville in Gauteng.
To grow a love of words – and ultimately reading – Blaai started spelling bees in her neighbourhood in partnerships with schools, the Department of Basic Education and her local municipality.
A spelling bee is a competition in which participants spell out words aloud. The participants are eliminated one by one when a word is spelt incorrectly, until there are only two participants left. The first speller to make a mistake comes second.
Spelling bees teach children confidence because they have to compete in front of people. They also improve their vocabulary, which allows them to excel at reading and writing.
“Not all kids have the privilege of growing up in a home in which they are surrounded by books or where reading is the norm,” she says.
Blaai is part of the ReLeaders Facebook group, which aims to get more people reading. Its flagship programme challenges participants to read for 14 days.
“We have seen that after the challenge, people are motivated to continue reading for leisure,” says Blaai.
With Heritage Month celebrated in September, Blaai says books about South Africa’s heritage and culture offer the perfect opportunity to increase awareness about South Africa’s diversity of traditions.
If you would like to join the ReLeaders book club, search for it on Facebook and click on the ‘join group’ icon.