Keep children engaged with books

A national literacy organisation has launched its free support programme to help keep children engaged with books and family story time during the Covid-19 21-day
lockdown.

Nal’ibali, isiXhosa for “here’s the story”, is a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign to spark children’s potential through storytelling and reading.

The programme includes story and activity guides, audio and written stories and a virtual reading club.

Chief operating officer Katie Huston said: “These are unprecedented and challenging times for South African families but they also present an opportunity.

“Children who grow up with a strong culture of reading in the home are better set up for success in school and in life – and our new reality means families have more time to create new habits, like reading aloud every evening before bed.”

She said routine and predictable activities can give children a lot of comfort in difficult times – and is a wonderful way to bond.

“We’ve selected the resources for our holiday pack to help families get reading as quickly as possible but we have a huge library to explore once people get started,” said Ms Huston.

Other activities, like independent reading, writing and drawing, are great ways to keep kids occupied and make sure their education continues while they are out of school.

The package is available to members of the public and includes a new story three times a week via email or SMS; a short and detailed guide on helping children to read and write at home; a reading-for-enjoyment holiday programme guide packed full of ideas and tips; and details on the campaign’s virtual reading club

Ms Huston encouraged families to participate in the Nal’ibali’s 21-day reading challenge specifically designed to help proactively embed a daily reading practice into family life.

The challenge invites parents and caregivers to read for 15 minutes or more every day, and those who successfully complete a week will stand a chance to win books and book hampers. Those who complete the full 21 days could win a mini library.

A fun progress chart will be available for download from Monday March 30.

For the many South African families with limited internet access, Nal’ibali recommends tuning in to SABC radio stations to listen to its stories in any of the 11 official languages, three times a week.

Apart from simply being entertaining, Nal’ibali’s audio stories expose children to rich language, broaden their worlds and develop critical thinking, imagination and empathy – especially if parents listen too, and find time to discuss the story afterwards.

Nal’ibali recognises that South African children, the majority of whom have limited mobile data, marginal access to online resources and few or no books at home,
will be hit much harder than children in Europe or the USA. As such, the Nal’ibali campaign is also supporting the DG Murray Trust’s call to mobile network operators to urgently zero-rate the services of public benefit organisations that provide digital content for early learning and education.

Ms Huston said: “There is a significant opportunity in this crisis to not only get families reading together, but to extend free connectivity to those who need it most. If business and government take bold steps, the coronavirus could push us to rapidly narrow the digital divide in South Africa which will have lasting benefits to children and families,” said Ms Huston.

She suggests that those with access to online resources share what they can with those who do not, and use Nal’ibali’s literacy-at-home guides to help establish
a regular – and fun – routine of reading and storytelling in the home.

For more information; access the individual elements of the holiday package or to sign up to be a FUNda Leader (part of Nal’ibali’s network of literacy activists) visit www.nalibali.org, which also offers a vast library of additional resources, including more than 800 stories, songs and rhymes and storytelling ideas – available in all 11 South African languages.