Spreading story power in Eastern Cape: 1392 residents to be trained

As part of a widespread community training programme, reaching over 2 000 adults across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, over 1 000 residents from Mount Frere, Maluti, Bizana, Flagstaff and Lusikisiki have been selected for free specialised literacy training this May.

Participants will be inspired and equipped to nurture a love of reading and storytelling in home languages amongst children of all ages in a bid to further support and spread the work of Nal’ibali’s school-based literacy project, Story Powered Schools, which will be operating in these areas this year.

“The truth is that South African children struggle to read, particularly those living in rural areas. Literacy is the gateway to success in the modern world and, while we will be working with schools to implement our special reading-for-enjoyment approach, we recognise and respect the power and potential that communities can play in their children’s literacy development,” says Michael Cekiso, Story Powered Schools Programme Manager.

Literacy learning can take place anywhere, not just in classroom. In fact, research shows a direct link between reading for pleasure and school success. So, the earlier parents and caregivers engage their children with literacy activities, the more likely they are to succeed in school, regardless of their socioeconomic background. And, simple literacy learning activities such as storytelling, can be done by anyone, at any time.

A pilot project run by Nal’ibali – the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign – and endorsed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Story Powered Schools aims to support over 700 schools in the remote areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape over a three-year period. Identified by the DBE as schools most in need of intervention, and least likely to receive any other development opportunities, the project is working with a total of 240 schools in these two provinces this year.

Each of these schools has already received five hanging libraries – one each for grades R to 4 – stocked with 150 storybooks in both English and isiXhosa or isiZulu. Further, the schools will be supported in setting up reading clubs and making reading part of the daily curriculum.

However, to ensure the sustainability of the programme, the training is aimed at reinvigorating a love for stories in adults, and reminding parents and caregivers of their about their powerful role as their children’s first teachers. When adults lead by example as reading role models, it encourages their children to adopt the same habit.

“Most parents want the best for their children but often underestimate their ability to support their children’s literacy learning. They may not be able to read, or perhaps recall unpleasant experiences when they first learnt to read. Through our training, we will be showing adults new ways to experience books and stories as fun and meaningful, and how to make use of indigenous language and knowledge to not only pass on and preserve our heritage, but to give children a powerful advantage in life,” concludes Cekiso.