Nal’ibali, South Africa’s reading-for-enjoyment campaign, has partnered with municipal libraries nationwide to challenge all adults to get the children in their lives a free library membership card. South Africa lacks a culture of reading and libraries remain largely underutilised, so children are unaccustomed to borrowing books to take home to read for enjoyment. In a quest to overcome illiteracy in South Africa and to make distance less of a barrier to reading, Nal’ibali will be giving new bicycles to 50 lucky children who have registered for a library membership card.
Right now in South Africa, only one in every five children in Grade Four can read for meaning. This means that most children struggle to read with ease and, as a result, suffer academically with low grades. In addition, most homes in South Africa have very few books, largely because books are too expensive for the average family to buy. The sad reality is that, without a culture of reading in ordinary homes, the domino effect of illiteracy, poor grades and unfinished high school will make underskilled and underemployed youth South Africa’s legacy.
Over the next two months – from 9 October to 29 November – Nal’ibali will be rallying all South Africans to take up a free library membership card in any one of three ways. Firstly, online at www.nalibali.org/library. Secondly, Nal’ibali literacy mentors will help children register for a card through a series of events at local libraries and registration drives at malls and community centres throughout the country. Thirdly, literacy mentors will be visiting selected schools to distribute library membership application forms to motivate children (and their caregivers) to join. Caregivers will be encouraged to complete the forms and to attach the necessary documents to ensure their children can be registered at their chosen library. In whichever way people choose to sign up, library membership cards will be fulfilled by the applicant’s selected library and caregivers will be notified to collect the cards when they are ready. Nal’ibali hopes to increase library membership by 120 000 new members over the next two months.
Children often visit a library after school to work on school projects or because they simply don’t have anywhere else to go after school. While children can spend the whole afternoon at the library, they usually leave without taking a book home to read because they don’t know that they can. Many parents think a library membership card must be paid for – but, according to municipal libraries, your first library membership card is free and a replacement fee is charged only if the card is lost.
Libraries are unique and they are open to everyone. Where else can you find a tranquil haven, choose any book you like, take it home and just relax and read? Then, when you have finished reading the book, you bring it back and start another amazing adventure. Reading for enjoyment competes with watching TV and playing games on cellphones, which makes the task of changing attitudes to reading all the more important.
And it is up to us, as adults, to model healthy behaviour to the children in our lives. So let’s start by becoming library members today! As well as being able to collect membership forms at the nearest library, readers can find out there about becoming a FUNda Sonke (isiXhosa for “everyone read”) leader.
For more information about Nal’ibali’s library membership drive and how to sign up online or in person, visit www.nalibali.org/library. You can access our great selection of multilingual children’s stories at www.nalibali.org. You can also join our FUNda Sonke loyalty programme and win rewards at www.nalibali.mobi. Find Nal’ibali on Facebook and Twitter: nalibaliSA.