Nal’ibali Westlake makes reading fun

Kaylin Dremas, from Nal’ibali’s Westlake programme, reads an Afrikaans story to children. Photograph: Supplied

A national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, which was launched in Westlake last September, will be extended until May next year after it received a positive response from the community, say those running it.

Nal’ibali (Xhosa for “Here’s the story”) was started by the DG Murray Trust, a funder of public benefit organisations, in 2012 to promote a culture of reading among the country’s pre-teens and ensure they hear stories in their mother tongue.

The programme in Westlake runs twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

In the morning, Nal’ibali staff split up into pairs to visit homes and preschools and read to the children. Story-related activities follow. In the afternoon, they run reading clubs in various parts of the community, including parks, schools and the Commando Hall.

According to the Nal’bali Westlake team leader Quinton Cleophas, the team of seven staff worked with five preschools, did 32 home visits and ran four reading clubs in the first phase of the project from August last year to July 20 this year. For the expanded phase of the project, which will run from this month until May next year, 11 staff will work with six new preschools, do a total of 40 home visits and run five reading clubs.

Mr Cleophas said that despite some challenges, the programme’s popularity had grown.

“The main challenge was that nobody knew about Nal’ibali and they didn’t know who we were. Another contributing factor is Westlake homes. At most plots, you will find that there is no space to sit or be active with a child because there are several structures on one plot; there isn’t even space for a mouse, but we work around it.”

It had been necessary to bring in more staff for the second phase of the project, he said, because all the preschools wanted to be involved now “and the parents can see some of the good work that is coming from Westlake”.

He attributed the growing success to the twice-a-month community events that Nal’ibali held to promote the programme. They are usually themed on something current such as the Netball World Cup or the Barbie movie.

Lydia Ingpen, the founder of the Amazing Grace Upliftment Centre, a preschool that Nal’ibali visits weekly, said the session usually started with the staff singing songs with the children.

“From there, they read stories and then do a story-related activity that they have read on the day. The impact has been awesome just to see the kids get involved and get more interested in books. It definitely has brought more focus on reading and books to the kids.”

Carol Titus, Nal’ibali’s Western Cape provincial coordinator, said the programme had met with “positive feedback” from parents, teachers, residents and even taxi drivers.

“Due to the nature of the programme and the limitations, teams are often requested to stay longer than the agreed-upon days,” she said, adding that in order for the programme to reach as many homes and preschools as possible, locations were usually changed after every phase of the programme.

“This, however, is very sad for all involved as there are deep bonds which get established during visits.”

Nal’ibali Westlake is hosting a parent workshop this Saturday, from 9am to 11am, at the Commando Hall. The workshop is aimed at parents with children under the age of 7. For more information, call Quinton on 063 629 0443.

The Nal’ibali Westlake staff celebrated diversity and culture at Westlake Primary School in June. Photograph: supplied.
Nal’ibali staff teaching children their icebreaker song, Umvundlana Othile. Photograph: Supplied