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How reading saved my life

I am alive today because reading saved my life.

There are not many people who love reading. It is so disappointing to find that people still have negative attitudes towards reading. I can’t blame them because we all have different experiences and reasons. I long for a day where reading and writing will be advertised and hyped up like drugs and alcohol. Billboards everywhere, TV, radio, social media and even on our dinner tables.

I believe we read for different reasons. Some read for fun, others read for passing exams, while others read to show off to others, especially to those who can’t. Some read for comfort or to escape the world’s complexities and allow their imagination to visit worlds only the mind can visit.

I come from a family that has a history of reading. My father was the secretary of the PAC and my mother a member of a stokvel that comprised 10 members. She was responsible for writing the rules and the contract of the stokvel and I would help her in writing or reading the instructions. My love of reading, like many other children who went to township schools, developed through reading Bible scriptures, comprehensions during English classes... and don’t forget the taxi stickers and spaza shop notices. My English teachers noticed my love and expressive form of reading and encouraged me to read and write more. That is when I started writing my own poetry and short stories.

At primary school I was one of those learners who always read notices and never gave others a chance to read aloud in class. After primary school, my love for writing manifested because I joined a poetry society in high school and we established a reading club. It was our form of rebelling and not wanting to conform to a popular high school culture of materialistic possessions and being a cool kid by drinking and smoking. Reading was sort of a statement to us.

We made reading cool to such an extent that other learners wanted to join our club because our academic results were consistently good. After graduating, I prayed that I would get a job where I would do what I love. I wanted a job that would make me happy, and not only on pay days.

When the opportunity to join Nal’ibali presented itself, I took it with both hands. Developing literacy and sparking children’s potential to read and write (through storytelling) has always been my passion. Every time I am in a reading club and I see the improvement in children’s reading behaviour, or when I see the children are so eager that they want us to increase our sessions, I go to sleep excited.

Reading changed my life. If it was not for reading, I would not have been exposed to some of the books that helped me in making positive life decisions. Today I am a B.A (Hons) graduate from Rhodes University, working as a Nal’ibali Eastern Cape cluster mentor, published author, language activist and a performing artist who loves reading and writing. To catch a glimpse of my mind you can visit my isiXhosa blog where I comment on social issues through the use of language in the modern era.

Tsepiso Sathie Nzayo is the Nal’ibali Cluster Mentor in the Eastern Cape. He is a writer, poet and comedian with BA Honours in African languages from Rhodes University – and has independently published two isiXhosa short stories. To contact him, email


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