World Read Aloud Day widens focus

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Best-selling children's author, Sihle Nontshokweni

Fifteen minutes of reading every day can expose a child to an estimated one million words in a single year. This is according to Nal’ibali Communications Practitioner, Siya Mahomba, as the organisation aims to reach 3 million children on World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) on 3 February 2021.

Mahomba expressed that many caregivers do not realise the benefit of reading and sharing stories with young children, specifically babies and three- to six-year-olds. “But it is the children who were read to when they were very little who perform better in school, as they will have developed their memory, vocabulary and comprehension skills,” he said.

Nal’ibali’s WRAD drive usually focuses on primary school children but this year, following the recent crisis in the early childhood development sector, they have opened up the day to preschool children and their caregivers as well. This will be with the help of the Centre for Early Childhood Development and the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa.

“2020 saw the extended closure of ECDs during the national lockdown. The result of this was that many of these facilities have had to permanently shut their doors, leaving scores of young children bereft of early learning opportunities, meals and safety,” expressed Director of the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Extraordinary Associate Professor in the Education Policy Studies Department at Stellenbosch University, Eric Atmore.

Every year Nal’ibali’ commissions a brand new story and translates it into 11 official South African languages as part of an ongoing campaign to urge parents, teachers and caregivers to read aloud to the children in their lives.

This year’s WRAD story is Fly, everyone Fly! written by best-selling children’s author, Sihle Nontshokweni, who explained that storytelling can help children become resilient and brave in real-world situations. “The beauty of storytelling is its immersive nature, allowing children to enter a world in which they believe. In that sacred world, they can find the language and tools they need to deal with the pressure of the external world,” she said.

Members of the public wishing to get involved, can visit www.nalibali.org or WhatsApp ‘WRAD’ to 060 044 2254 to make their pledge and gain free access the official story and PRAESA’s guide to sharing the story with preschool children. They are also encouraged to share pictures of their read-aloud sessions online using the hashtag #MyWRAD2021.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele

nomaqhawe@mahareng.co.za