More than 20,000 children signed up for library cards

05 March 2020 - 13:15 By nal'ibali
Avid reader Ceelo Mann, eight, heads to the library.
Avid reader Ceelo Mann, eight, heads to the library.
Image: Supplied

A child on a bike, with a book bag slung over their shoulder, on their way to the library, is a sight that would warm any parent, teacher or librarian’s heart. This was the result that Nal’ibali, SA’s reading for enjoyment campaign, was aiming for when, in 2019, it started its nationwide library drive to get as many children as possible signed up for library membership cards.

And as a result of partnerships with provincial library services' departments countrywide, more than 60 community events at schools and libraries, and an online campaign aimed at caregivers, 23,513 children have been signed up for library cards.

The drive was held in response to the country’s literacy crisis, which sees almost 80% of grade 4 pupils unable to read for meaning in any language. This translates to poor literacy skills, high school dropouts and an alarming prospect for the country’s future.

The drive highlighted barriers children and caregivers face when attempting to sign up for library membership cards: proof of address, identity documents and birth certificates are required in most cases. In some provinces, such as Limpopo, which consistently places last in terms of its children’s school performance, membership is not free.

Further, if caregivers in the province are unable to show a municipal account, the library membership fee is increased. This means some of SA’s most vulnerable children are struggling to become active library members and their access to books is slim to none.

Nal’ibali hopes to bridge the divide between libraries and the communities they serve through various initiatives, such as its national library roadshow, held in partnership with Clowns Without Borders SA. Making use of humour and physical theatre, the roadshows break down stereotypes about who may and may not visit a library, and connect school pupils, their educators and library staff in a relaxed and informal way.

The drive also supports educators in signing up for block-loan library membership cards, which allow them to take out up to 25 books at a time to support school literacy activities and pupils who do not have library cards. Nal’ibali will be launching an advocacy drive later this year to fight for free library membership for all.

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of SA languages, visit and or find them on Facebook and Twitter.