A study into the reading comprehension of Grade 4 pupils in 50 different countries revealed that 78% of South African pupils could not read for meaning.
The staggering statistic was influenced by a lack of resources at school, no school libraries, bullying, and discipline problems. Factors also included teacher absenteeism which resulted in the failure to complete the curriculum and late arrival.
The 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy study revealed that pupils who lived in remote rural areas, small towns or villages and townships had the lowest reading literacy achievement compared to pupils from urban, suburban and medium or large towns.
A local library hopes to change that statistic through illustrated books, which often encourage a strong passion for reading.
Last month Ward 46 councillor Aslam Cassim allocated R30 000 to the Rylands library, which enabled them to buy a variety of new fiction, non-fiction, children’s, adult and teenage books.
The study further revealed that children of parents who enjoyed reading achieved higher scores than those whose parents did not.
The literacy scores of pupils who received homework daily were higher than those who did not and pupils whose parents did early reading literacy activities with their child before school, tended to achieve much higher reading literacy scores.
Librarian Leila Rabe, said reading was a basic tool children needed to be successful in their school careers, so it was important for them to learn to read and for their parents to encourage them to visit the library.
She said the library had about 9 000 walk-ins on a monthly basis and people often asked for certain books which the library did not have, but with the ward allocation they were able to purchase the frequently asked for books.
“Reading can help people in different ways, some use it to relax from their stressful lives, but for children especially it improves their self-esteem, vocabulary, writing, and grammar and more importantly their imagination. It also improves your chances of getting a good education,” she said.
Mr Cassim said as a child he had enjoyed reading and still regularly visited the library.
“Education is important and it can take a child away from any social ill. Through education you can change your life,” he said.
Ms Rabe said children often didn’t like to read but the library had always encouraged a love for reading through illustrated books.