The latest results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study indicate that basic literacy among South African children has further deteriorated. An astounding 81% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language. This rate went up from 78% pre-pandemic, which evidently suggests that the South African literacy crisis is far from over.
Collaborative efforts such as Yizani Sifunde are believed to be one of the possible resolutions by educational experts. Yizani Sifunde (isiXhosa for ‘come, let’s read’) is a special reading-intervention project involving three prominent South African literacy NGOs - Book Dash, Nal’ibali and Wordworks - and made possible by the Liberty Community Trust.
The project is aimed at early childhood development (ECD) and since its inception in 2021, has provided over 3000 young children from communities in East London, Elliot and Queenstown with high-quality storybooks in their home language, isiXhosa.
Yizani Sifunde’s project coordinator, Rodney Msomi, says collaboration is the core of the project thus community involvement is encouraged. “We have a three-pronged approach, that includes ECD centres, parents and communities. We spent the first year of the project working with ECD centres and parents/guardians. In 2022 we started involving the broader community in our programme. We are now preparing to onboard more community members. We will provide training on ways to become a literacy activist or ‘FUNda Leader’, as we call it. These skills will enable the participants to run a home- or community-based reading club.”
Using practical demonstration, Yizani Sifunde works with parents and ECD practitioners to help them share storybooks with the children, and to understand the benefits of doing so. Now in its third year, the project operates less-privileged areas of Queenstown including Mlungisi, Ezibeleni, Ilinge as well as McBride in Whittlesea. In East London, YizanI Sifunde operates in Bhongweni, Santa, Aiport Park, Leeches Bay, Ncera, Egoli and Fort Grey.
In June, all interested people in the above-mentioned communities can receive training on how to establish and run their own reading clubs. Training will take place from the 12th to the 15th of June and then again from the 19th till the 22nd of June. Each session is limited to 10 participants. Interested members of the community can call or WhatsApp Rodney 072 573 9493 to enrol.
“Yizani Sifunde’s vision is to provide communities in the Eastern Cape with high-quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) training, an abundance of books for the children and their families, and long lasting literacy practices for the community and family,” says Rodney.
All attendees of the training will receive a free pack of four story books, and those who go on to start a reading club in the community will receive a starter-pack of 25 books for each child attending their reading club, a hanging library for their reading club and other useful training materials and support. “The project is all about infusing the whole community with books, and this is one of the ways we can do so,” he adds.
Free reading and story-sharing resources in different South African languages can also be accessed on www.nalibali.org. More than 500 free Book Dash books can be read online at bookdash.org/books in a variety of languages. Wordworks’s Little Stars programme for pre-Grade R teachers is designed to strengthen language and emergent literacy in pre-Grade R classrooms: www.wordworks.org.za/our-early-literacy-programmes/
For more information about Yizani Sifunde, contact Rodney Msomi on 072 573 9493
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