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Story Powered Schools project sparks a joy of reading in rural schools

Nal’ibali’s Story Powered Schools project has reached the halfway mark in its goal to create a culture of reading across 720 schools in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. Working closely with schools over a 3-year period, the Department of Basic Education identified specific rural schools with the greatest need within these provinces, to develop basic literacy amongst its pupils. 

The participating school’s’ key objective is to develop and nurture a culture of reading and storytelling, in mother language and English, while unlocking each child’s potential and capacity to learn. As part of a compulsory reading period within the school day, the project is targeted at children in Grades R - 4 and works on motivating and assisting their educators through training to encourage literacy development.

According to research conducted by Nal’ibali’s internal research and innovation team, over the past year the project has shown considerable growth and success with a reading culture starting to take root in these schools. Pupils have improved their reading skills and are displaying a genuine interest and enjoyment in reading and storytelling. Assisted by Nal’ibali and their trained volunteers, each school receives books and hanging libraries, literary materials, supplements and ongoing training and support for teachers and those within the community.  

The books and hanging libraries are displayed in every Story Powered School, with each receiving hanging libraries containing a variety of books in English and mother languages, for Grades R - 4. The bilingual Nal’ibali reading supplements are delivered every two weeks to the schools during term time and are used by pupils and teachers in creative and interactive ways both in class and at home. Children are also encouraged to create artwork and stories to showcase in their classrooms. 

The project can only be truly successful if the love of reading is continually nurtured. As such, Nal’ibali’s trained Story Sparkers play a pivotal role and are assigned to a specific school to mentor and support both the teachers and pupils. Their enthusiasm and hard work are a driving force in ensuring schools stay on track. 

Since embarking on the project, several principals and teachers have reported a change in attitude towards books, with pupils expressing a genuine enthusiasm and interest in reading and storytelling. The teachers have also felt empowered through the training they have received and have developed a greater awareness of the importance of reading for enjoyment, not just for learning. Parent involvement has also increased and has been nurtured through the community training and parent meetings. 

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"[Children] listen more attentively when they see you use these hanging library books. The textbooks seem to be boring them. This seems to be more fun.” – Teacher, School D
“[At training], the way of presenting, of teaching them how to read – using songs, using games - … was exciting. It helped me because when you are teaching them, it makes them remember for a long period.” – Teacher, School A

“I have a child that is very shy. But when he came back with the supplements to make his own books, he asked me to read with him. Now he is the one who informs me that Nal’ibali has these certain books and we sit and check whether I have them; then we read to each other. That changed his character.” – Community member, School C

The relationships between teacher and pupil have also strengthened with many finding they are able to better support their pupils as they can now express their feelings through storytelling. 

“This project would not be possible without the passionate, energised and extremely dedicated team who have contributed to its growth and success to date. We appreciate all those involved and feel excited to see what results the second half of this project will bring. Particular thanks must go to our funder and partner, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and to our partner, the Department of Basic Education, for their continued support” says Michael Cekiso, Programme Manager for Story Powered Schools. 

Story Powered Schools is a Nal’ibali initiative endorsed by the Department of Basic Education and made possible by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Story Powered Schools aims to spark learners’ potential and unlock their school success through reading and storytelling by placing stories at the heart of classrooms and schools. For more information about the campaign or the power of reading and storytelling. 


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