The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) has been honoured with the prestigious international children’s literacy accolade, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA). The announcement was made at a ceremony held yesterday, Tuesday 31 March, in Sweden. The ALMA is the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature and reading promotion, and PRAESA is being celebrated for its work in promoting children’s literacy in all official languages across South Africa since 1992.
“Receiving this award is a dream come true and a great honour. This will make an incredible difference to the reading work we do for huge numbers of children across South Africa, and even Africa,” says Carole Bloch, Director of PRAESA. “Having this award come to the African continent gives great acknowledgement to the importance of growing a love of reading with all children, irrespective of their language and background."
PRAESA is an independent research and development unit established in 1992 at the University of Cape Town by the late Dr Neville Alexander. A leading advocate for multilingual education in South Africa, Alexander spent ten years on Robben Island for his political activism. Under his directorship the PRAESA team advocated for the use of African languages and the growth of a reading culture across Africa, working on language planning and policy implementation and conducting research into multilingual classrooms. PRAESA’s current Director, Carole Bloch, has initiated and led many of its projects to enrich children’s early literacy learning experiences and the publication of storybooks and other reading materials in several languages for use in multilingual settings.
Most recently, PRAESA began the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, which aims to spark all children’s potential through storytelling and reading. Launched in 2012, Nal’ibali works with partners to put in place the conditions that support the initial and ongoing literacy learning of all children. It combines a mass-media advocacy campaign highlighting the critical link between children’s love of reading and educational success, with a grassroots programme of training workshops and reading clubs.
To date, there are over 300 clubs in a growing network across the country. In addition, the campaign produces a fortnightly reading-for-enjoyment supplement with partner, Times Media. The supplement is the only bilingual resource of its kind in the country and provides children and their caregivers with regular stories and literacy tips and activities in six South African languages. Further, 30 000 copies of the supplement are delivered for free to Nal’ibali reading clubs, as well as schools, libraries and early childhood development centres every second week. The campaign also broadcasts children’s stories three times a week in all 11 official languages on public radio stations.
Receiving the 2015 ALMA award as one of 197 nominations from 61 countries is a testament to PRAESA’s over 20-year contribution to language and literacy education. Previous winners include authors Maurice Sendak and Philip Pullman and the Tamar Institute in Palestine.
“Astrid Lindgren was a human rights activist, feminist and author of the famous Pippi Longstocking series of children’s books which have been translated into 64 languages and have delighted children since 1945. She was passionate about treating children with dignity and respect and her spirit resonates with the work that my colleagues past and present in PRAESA are committed to. This incredible award encourages us to continue, ” concludes Bloch.
Read more about PRAESA's ALMA victory here.