Reading and writing at home is key for successful kids and happy families

14 May 2020 - 11:19
Nal'ibali's literacy drive ambassador Mpumy Ndlovu encourages families to read and write together, particularly during the lockdown.
Nal'ibali's literacy drive ambassador Mpumy Ndlovu encourages families to read and write together, particularly during the lockdown.
Image: Supplied

Due to the uncertainty of the 2020 academic year, many parents are anxious that their children are falling behind with their schoolwork and have taken it upon themselves to homeschool their children as best they can until it is safe to send their children back to school. It's therefore understandable that parents are feeling overwhelmed.

However, the good news is that school is not the only place where teaching and learning can happen.

Homes that have a strong culture of family literacy can have a big impact on the outcome of their children’s academic success, irrespective of their socio-economic status.  Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in homes where they are read to frequently do much better at school than children who are not read to at all at home.

The difficulty, however, is that more than 60% of homes in South Africa do not own even one leisure book. This is compounded by the fact that libraries have shut down during the lockdown, making access to books even more difficult.

Wishing to play a positive role by reminding caregivers of what they can do with limited resources within the home, Nal’ibali – South Africa’s reading-for-enjoyment campaign – has embarked on a family-literacy programme to support these households.

“Parents often underestimate the important role they play as their children’s first teachers - and that what families do at home can lay the foundation of how children perceive reading and writing throughout their lives,” said Sally du Preez, communications manager at Nal’ibali.

Simple activities such as the daily sharing of stories, songs and games all form part of family literacy and can be easily integrated into daily life.

Nal’ibali will be sharing these types of activities in a series of "how-to" videos on its Facebook page and through a series of short, useful articles on its website from May 13-27.

The campaign has also created an easy-reference poster for caregivers, which can be downloaded for free from its website, while its newly launched virtual reading club continues to allow children the opportunity to watch locally contextualised stories in various South African languages.

Performer, director, writer and storyteller Mpumy Ndlovu is Nal’ibali’s ambassador for the drive. She said through storytelling, children can be taken to a world where everything is exciting, good and possible.

“Writing can help children pen their emotions, while also preparing them for when they do go back to school. The best thing is they get to read and write with their families, allowing them to bond and share laughter," she said.

Since the start of the lockdown, Nal’ibali has been encouraging families to tune into its various partner radio stations to listen to stories in their mother tongue. To assist families with limited access to the internet, it has also launched a WhatsApp story line providing stories at marginal data costs.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to sign up to Nal’ibali's FUNda Sonke loyalty programme, where they can receive free reading-for-enjoyment training.

Laydene Naylor from Hogsback, in the Eastern Cape, said FUNda Sonke is a fun, supportive platform that encourages ordinary people to grow into a bigger and better version of themselves - and to make valuable and meaningful contributions to their communities and to the future leaders of our country.

"It is a wonderful pool of resources and ideas that makes the planning and running of reading clubs easy. It also encourages reading at home and motivates me to continue with my work - and reminds me to have fun when doing so, too," said Naylor.

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit www.nalibali.org. You can also sign up for free reading-for-enjoyment training though Nal’ibali’s FUNda Sonke loyalty programme at www.nalibali.mobi.