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Adults as reading role models


Smangele Mathebula is the Nal’ibali Campaign Driver and a literary activist who enjoys sharing her love of reading through the giving of books. She speaks to us about how adults become children's immediate reading role models:

Emilie Buchwald says, ‘Children are made readers on the laps of their parents’, and this couldn’t have greater significance in my reading universe. Adults are often great mirrors to children, not only in the way they think, but more so in affecting their behaviour.

My daughter and I were speaking over the phone the other day and we happened to be discussing the books we were reading and she calmly said, ‘I am following in your reading footsteps’. I laughed because she had read ahead of me in a series of books we both started reading and it’s a statement she says a lot regarding many things that we share.

"I myself read children’s books in order to encourage a more personal conversation around books with my daughter"

I have found it deeply enriching for our relationship to share the books we are reading as there isn’t a better way to spark the passion for literature in a child’s life. I myself read children’s books in order to encourage a more personal conversation around books with my daughter. It feels like our own little book club.

It has become clear to me that, since I am a reader and have been reading to her from an early age as well as buying books for her, that the impact of those habits is far greater than I anticipated.

A lot of my own interaction with books was at school, but my curiosity was sparked through a makeshift bookshelf at my Grandmother’s house. Its presence in my formative years led me to the encyclopaedias in my parents' home that became a central place for research before the age of Google.

There are various ways in which one is led to the glorious world of books. Many adults in my life have passed on this gift in the most creative of ways – my Dad who buys magazines for the crosswords, his Sunday newspaper ritual, and the hours of learning new words using the dictionary.

It is important that we are able to carry on the tradition of wonder and amazement found in the world of books. There are easy guidelines to follow, regardless of one's reading capabilities or language of choice. The environment around the house is particularly ripe with ways to make stories come alive. It can help teach the alphabet if you search for objects that begin with a specific letter, or be used to link our daily experiences to a book you and your child are reading. Let’s keep sharing the passion for books.

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