Partnership to boost literacy

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

Sowetan and the City of Johannesburg Library and Information Services have formed a thriving nation-building partnership that drives the Johannesburg Literary Festival.

The festival (JoLiFe) encourages the celebration and appraisal of literature, promotion of indigenous languages and South African and African writers; and writing, reading and the highlighting of the importance of public libraries in making literature more accessible to communities.

Held during National Library Week in March, JoLiFe is the most prominent of the community literacy development and appreciation programmes of the City of Johannesburg's Library and Information Services.

These programmes seek to develop and promote reading and learning for all, through free and guided access to information, focusing on literacy, early childhood development, youth empowerment and education support.

They are aimed at anchoring a campaign to establish a culture of reading and lifelong learning.

JoLiFe's other activities include a book discussion session - to encourage communities to read for recreation, especially African and South African literature.

They also include:

l A storytelling festival for primary school pupils - to celebrate the importance of this dynamic oral culture, to encourage and introduce children to reading, and creative writing and artistic expression;

l A poetry festival for the youth to encourage participation in poetry sessions, together with established poets, and showcase the youngsters' poetic talents in different languages, and different poetry genres;

l And, the JoLiFe writing contest, whose latest winners - announced in Newtown in March - are Themba Tshabalala, Sbusiso Zinhle Nkosi, Charity Mkone, Mpho Mphafi, Martina Boshoff, Confidence Seleme, Bonga Vincent Matu, Charlotte Hillebrand, Olivea Fiorotto, Ramuhulu Phuluso, Promise Ngomane, Rhulani Chauke, Yandisa Keboletse and Winnie Mtimde.

Their submissions - for poetry and short-story writing in the 13-15, 16-19 and 20-25 age groups - were based on the theme, Traditions I hold Dear, inspired by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart.

Other related programmes of the Johannesburg Library and Information Services include:

l A bibliographic service that maintains a central database of library materials that are available to all the public libraries in Johannesburg;

l A library and information services, service delivery work that includes life skills development activities for women, youth and the elderly;

l A services and resource development work that facilitates - among others - early childhood development reading and learning development activities, educational support services and reading development services for schools.

These activities are run through several interactive nation-building programmes, namely Battle of the Books, Science Expo, Science Scuffle, Model Building, Story Skirmish, Ready to Read and Psyched 4 Science.

Battle of the Books is a book-based inter-school, knockout quiz, which seeks to broaden children's reading experience, and to encourage cooperation between schools and libraries.

Story Skirmish is similar to Battle of the Books, but aimed at younger, less skilled readers, and is especially targeted at second language English speakers in Grades 4 and 5.

Ready to Read targets children in day-care centres, crèches and nursery schools, who do not have access to books - using picture and theme books in African languages and in English.

In the Psyched 4 Science campaign, pupils have to acquire information, knowledge and become aware of opportunities available for them in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In the Model Building activity, high school pupils are given the opportunity to showcase their scientific and technological abilities in a model-building competition.

Science Expo

The Science Expo activity encourages youngsters to consider studying and improving their performances in mathematics and science, and ultimately to follow careers in these crucial learning fields.