In his insightful book, The Rights of the Reader, Daniel Pennac comments: “When someone reads aloud, they raise you to the level of the book. They give you reading as a gift.”
People who love reading know the precise value of that gift. But there are those who cannot read, both children and adults – and they should be remembered this September, in Literacy and Heritage Month.
With our schools buckling under the weight of too many children and too few resources, Grethe Koen looks into the South African civil organisations teaching our kids how to read.
The aim of the Q&A series is to get an inside look into some of South Africa’s leading education academics, policy-makers and activists. This is the twenty-third interview in the series. Carole Bloch is Director of PRAESA.
In South Africa, most of the adults who spend time with children in their various capacities as parents, teachers, caregivers, adopters or custodians, do not regularly read aloud to them. And even if they do, with repeated readings of favourite storybooks, most can’t sustain the activity long enough for it to become a habit.
A recent proposal by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is to do away with the national catalogue of eight books per subject per grade, and to approve only one book, is predicted to damage further South Africa’s already poor educational outcomes.
Teaching children with great stories offers the chance to counter prejudice and bigotry, by encouraging empathy and nurturing a sense of justice. This is why we need to know what stories are available, choose carefully and use languages children understand.
Socrates told us that all thinking begins with wonder. Nobody would dispute the need for developing thoughtful citizens, but just how do we develop a sense of wonder in children? Through stories, of course!