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Julia Donaldson visits Nal'ibali

International children’s author and 2011-2013 UK Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, treated children from Nal’ibali’s Grow Smart reading club in Philippi to a special reading on Saturday 06 February 2016. The visit forms part of Donaldson’s trip to South Africa where she will be performing in a number of theatre shows based on a variety of her books including her award winning book, The Gruffalo, and What the Ladybird Heard.


Entertaining the reading club children with a multilingual reading, Donaldson read from her first book, A Squash and a Squeeze, which she originally developed as a song. Her rhyming style, which engages children through its use of rhythm and repetition is a perfect fit with the Nal’ibali campaign’s reading-for-enjoyment approach.


Now a network of over 800 reading clubs across the country, Nal’ibali addresses families, homes and schools to help grow a love of reading amongst all people in South Africa.  Nal’ibali also advocates for the use of play, songs and games in a relaxed and safe environment as part of informal language learning to support enjoyable and personally meaningful encounters with stories and books in English and African languages because, as children grow to love books and stories, they become motivated and involved in learning to read and write.


“Young children have thirsty imaginations and playful spirits. As they experience the rhythm and repetition of language in a captivating story with vivid illustrations, like the ones Julia Donaldson writes, you can’t stop them from joining in and wanting more.  They become so emotionally involved that without even noticing, they’re learning all kinds of literacy lessons!” comments Carole Bloch, Executive Director of PRAESA (the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa), co-founder and content provider of the Nal’ibali campaign.


Joined by her husband, musician Malcom Donaldson, who performed a musical accompaniment to the story, the special reading was extended into an interactive session of Storyplay – Nal’ibali’s approach to writing and reading with young children.


Fun but educational, Storyplay integrates stories and play in an informal way that values the power of imagination and encourages children to tell and act out their own and others’ stories. By recreating the stories in their immediate environments and roleplaying the different characters, children are able to develop their language and literacy through experiential learning while doing what they do best – play.


“Storyplay offers children holistic language experiences that include all the vital elements they need to make sense of and also produce print. They compose a story and watch as an adult writes it down for them and then reads it aloud. They then play out the story, bringing it to life as they take turns to become the characters. In this way, we respect and extend young children’s relentless drive to pretend and to learn,” adds Bloch.


“This morning has been one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of any book tour I have been on. It was so valuable to see what the children do at the Nal’ibali reading clubs and to not only share my stories, but to join in on their songs and games too. The children were so responsive!” said Donaldson.


And to ensure that the joy of her visit and the liveliness of her story remained with the children, publishing house Pan Macmillan donated copies of Donaldson’s books, The GruffaloThe Snail and the Whale and The Gruffalo’s Child to the club. In addition, Scholastic donated copies of Donaldson’s The Scarecrow’s Wedding.

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