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Vuyo's reading programme: read books, newspapers and see whether it makes a difference in your lives

"Children in the township where I grew up would only read when they went to school. They were not given the opportunity to be passionate about literature and would read only when academically driven"

The Brain Feed Reading Club (BFRC) in King William’s Town, Ginsberg, was established when Nal’ibali Story Stars Vuyo Baneti and her colleague Xolela Kenene – both part of the Public Participation and Special Programmes Unit (Youth Advisory Centre) for the Buffalo City Municipal Metro in the Eastern Cape – were approached by two high-school learners completing their Matric year.

Passionate about reading, the learners approached the Youth Advisory Centre to help connect them to sponsorships for book donations.

Together, the group decided to take the idea one step further, and so started the Brain Feed Reading Club in March 2012 to ensure children not only get access to books – but to instill a culture of having fun with books and reading for enjoyment in their community.

Today, there are now 60 children who participate in the BFRC, which runs regular reading club sessions on Mondays at the Youth Advisory Centre, and Friday afternoons at the Charles Morgan Public School.

Coming from a township where reading has not been valued, Vuyo believes that reading clubs are great way to change the situation and make reading for pleasure a priority. “Children in the township where I grew up would only read when they went to school. They were not given the opportunity to be passionate about literature and would read only when academically driven,” she says about the motivation to create a positive space in which children can grow a love of books and reading.

One of greatest challenges for the club, however, is the shortage of books. Although there are lots of curriculum books available in the schools, there are not enough picture books or fun books with poetry and short stories for the children to enjoy, says Vuyo. “To address this, I’ve searched through old picture books from primary school and asked people I know in the area if they have any spare reading material.” The young volunteer suggests that if other reading clubs or people interested in finding reading material for children are facing a similar challenge, a good option is to become a member of the local library. “Libraries are addictive”, she says. “Once you read and return a book, you don’t want to leave the library without another book in hand!”

Despite these challenges, Vuyo and her co-volunteers say they can already see a difference in the children attending the club. “The best part has been seeing children become comfortable and confident reading books,” she says. “It’s amazing to see how they grow into their own words as they learn how to read, write, and recite poetry. They are able to express themselves confidently, without fear that they are unable to read.”

Another way Vuyo is encouraging children to read is by getting them to read books that interest them. “Adults and teachers shouldn’t try to programme children to read particular books. Let them read anything they select as long as they express the desire to read it,” she shares. “Once they are comfortable, they may want to try to read different types of books to expand their interests, be it poetry or political books.”

She also encourages children and adults to pick up and read newspapers –  and see whether it makes a difference in their lives.

Vuyo’s top three tips for people who want to start their own reading club:

• Don’t think it has to be a large group of people or that you must have your own library.

• Start reading the books you have at home, and begin by exchanging books with other people. You can read the books at the same time, and then review them together.

• Get a library membership!

The Brain Feed Reading Club is mentored and supported by Nal’ibali partner, The Nelson Mandela Institute in the Eastern Cape. To start your own reading club, visit www.nalibali.org or www.nalibali.mobi

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