The not-for-profit Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), the Times Media partner in the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, was awarded the Ibby-Asahi Reading Promotion Award in Mexico City this month.
The award was initiated by the International Board on Books for Young People (Ibby) and sponsored by the Japanese newspaper company the Asahi Shimbun.
It is presented every two years to two groups or institutions whose activities are judged to be making a lasting contribution to reading promotion for children and young people.
PRAESA coordinator Dr Carole Bloch and national training director Ntombizanele Mahobe accepted the award on behalf of the organisation, which has been involved in improving conditions for reading enjoyment for the past 23 years.
“Receiving the award is a real affirmation of the work we have been doing for so long. I have always felt that we are doing the right thing, but to be recognised by an international group of people who specialise in reading and children’s books is a great reward in itself,” Bloch said.
PRAESA, which was a joint winner with the Children’s Book Bank in Canada, was one of 14 groups nominated.
It was put forward by Ibby Sweden.
While PRAESA received the award for its work in general, the success of Nal’ibali was noticed by the judges as it was the first national programme to be carried out to scale by PRAESA and continues to gain ground.
Launched in 2012, Nal’ibali – meaning “Here’s the story” in isiXhosa – works with partners to help put into place the conditions that support opportunities for literacy learning of all children irrespective of linguistic, cultural or class backgrounds.
“They [Ibby-Asahi] love what we have to offer – our supplements and social media presence as well as the fact that we have managed to translate so many appropriate stories and make them accessible,” Bloch said.
The newspaper supplements are delivered to reading clubs during term time as a means of giving those involved in children’s reading a supply of material in languages that work for the community.
“The supplements help to create a scaffolding resource in places where books are not readily available,” Bloch said.
Since its inception, Nal’ibali and its partners have produced 148 literacy activities and 106 translated stories in 15.7 million supplements and broadcast 78 stories in nine languages on radio.
“Core principles have guided us over the years,” Bloch says.
The first is that the “same kind of enriched and inspiring conditions that encourage English-speaking children to become engaged readers and writers are the same ones that African- language speakers need”.
Bloch said: “This should be self evident, but it isn’t. In our work we are countering the low-level expectations of the education system for millions of bright young African-language speakers as they enter and progress through primary school.”
She said the second principle was that “nurturing a love of stories offers us all enjoyable inroads to lifelong learning journeys”. The hegemonic pressure of schooling to deliver measurable skills, however, had led to a loss of appreciation for the deep educational value of stories.
“We are reviving the value of narrative as an essential part of not just education but also community and home settings.
“I think the judges highly value our emphasis on stories and on multilingualism, the fact that we work across several languages and that we champion mother-tongue education.
“It is clear we have persevered over the years and have an influence in the field,” Bloch said. – Herald Reporter
This article was originally published in HeraldLIVE.