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Taxi industry called on to drive culture of reading

A pupil reads through the programme during a dialogue organised by the National Education Collaboration Trust in Driekop, Sekhukhune, in Limpopo.
A pupil reads through the programme during a dialogue organised by the National Education Collaboration Trust in Driekop, Sekhukhune, in Limpopo.
Image: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media

When stokvels share groceries at the end of the year, they should include a book for each member to read for leisure as part of promoting a culture of reading in SA.

This was one of the suggestions put forward at the Reading for Meaning dialogue in Driekop, Sekhukhune, in Limpopo, recently.

Teachers, pupils, principals, traditional leaders and councillors discussed ways of improving and entrenching reading at schools and in communities.

The gathering, organised by the National Education Collaboration Trust and the National Reading Coalition, came in the backdrop of the findings of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study report 2016, which found that 78% of grade 4 pupils in SA could not read for meaning [they don't understand what they are reading].

SA was placed last out of 50 countries that participated in the study, with Limpopo and Eastern Cape the poorest performers with scores below 300 points.

The study assesses reading comprehension and monitors trends in reading literacy at five-year intervals and has assessed fourth-year reading comprehension in over 60 countries since 2001.

"Our children continue to perform poorly at reading.

"This means they can't perform other tasks in other subjects. Children can't work out maths problems if they can't understand what the statement requires," said Onnica Dederen, deputy director in the department of education in Limpopo.

The coalition, led by the trust, works with schools, teachers and communities to help address the challenges associated with reading and literacy.

Coalition national project manager Bailey Nkuna told the gathering that when they visited rural Limpopo schools to assess whether pupils were embracing the culture of reading, they were often told there weren't books available.

After raiding the school's storerooms, they would be met by dozens upon dozens of books gathering dust.

"They would claim the books are outdated and not recognised by the DBE [department of basic education]. But we encourage them to use them to encourage the culture of reading," Nkuna said.

"This problem [poor reading culture] is not only a teacher or parent problem," said Nkuna, adding that one of the goals of the coalition is to ensure that the reading challenge must have been resolved significantly by 2030.

As part of ways to find solutions to the problem, the trust and the coalition have started reading clubs in four districts of Limpopo in which pupils are given reading cards to record the titles of books they have read.

The project also targets various sectors, including taxi drivers, health institutions, churches and traditional leaders.

Nkuna said every sector of society should be encouraged to read for children to also adopt that culture.

"In some areas when a taxi driver sees a learner in the streets during school hours they take that learner to school. So why can't taxi drivers also be used as part of promoting this culture?" asked Nkuna.

He said reading should permeate every sphere of society including a visit to the clinic where a parent taking a child for medical examination should read during the waiting period.

"The child must also be given a book to read. Children need to see teachers and adults reading. They can't be expected to read when the adults and teachers don't read," he said.

Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in collaboration with the coalition, launched a reading circle that offers book lovers a chance to share their views on books with him through a chat service on the site.

In his State of the Nation Address in June, Ramaphosa announced that all foundation and intermediate phase teachers will be trained to teach reading in English and African languages.

He said through the coalition, the government will train and deploy experienced coaches to provide high-quality on-site support to teachers.

- Mukurukuru Media

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