Reading is a gift every child deserves

Reading is fundamental to a child's development as it underpins everything we do in life. It's National Book Week in SA.
Reading is fundamental to a child's development as it underpins everything we do in life. It's National Book Week in SA.
Image: 123RF

As practical as I am, I have always believed in time travel.

Not the kind facilitated by a time machine or a thin veil in the atmosphere that allows for a parallel universe to leak through to ours.

My kind of time travel sits on shelves, can turn yellow and smell musty with age.

Books are the love of my life. As a young, scrawny outcast I clung to the pages, which turned me into anything I wanted to be and took me any place I wanted to go.

I became a friend to Tambudzai and shied away from the parts of Nyasha that reflected my own self when I read Nervous Conditions.

I read under the covers and hid behind the back of my house with contraband Mills and Boons copies and I had fantasies about losing my memory like Catherine Douglas in Sidney Sheldon's Memories of Midnight.

I voraciously consumed fantasy titles by Garth Nix, Terry Goodkind and David and Leigh Eddings. I was spellbound by the Harry Potter series and walked around dreaming of discovering some magical element in my blood.

I want this and more for the millions of children in this country.

No one is excited as I am that the annual National Book Week is taking place this week, in association with department of arts and culture.

The reading campaign is in its ninth year. The South African Book Development Council is hosting this nationwide tour from September 3-9 in all nine provinces - reaching beyond urban centres and metros.

Reading is truly fundamental. A startling study published last year found that eight out of 10 grade 4 pupils "still cannot read at an appropriate level". This is a scary statistic considering that everything we do involves reading.

However, the situation can be remedied, and it can start at home. The statistics state that 58% of SA households do not have any leisure reading books. Parents, can foster a love for reading in children through leading by example. If you can introduce reading time into the family's routine, that's a great start.

"An interest in reading is often catalysed by a personal experience of storytelling," Elitha van der Sandt, chief executive officer of the SA Book Development Councilsaid in a statement.

"Story is therefore one of the most important gateways into reading," she added.

This year's theme is #OurStories and the council wants to get the public to tell, buy and enjoy our unique SA stories.

Another initiative that is running simultaneously is the #READABOOK, #BUY ABOOK and #SHARE ABOOK campaign. This campaign aims to get as many books into SA homes as possible.

Selected books will be available at Exclusive Books, Bargain Books, Bridge Books, Love Books and Ethnikids for only R20 from August 20 to September 8.

National Book Week runs until September 9 and the National Book Fair takes place in Newtown, Johannesburg, from September 7 to 9.

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