National Book Week fosters culture of reading

Librarian Ruwayda Ahmed reads to children during National Book Week.

According to Ruwayda Ahmed, children’s librarian at Lansdowne library, only 14 percent of South Africans read books and only five percent of parents read books to their children.

Lansdowne library is hoping to change this staggering statistic by hosting storytelling programmes during National Book Week, which runs from Monday September 5 to Sunday September 11.

The initiative was developed by the South African Book Development Council in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture.

International Literacy Day is also celebrated during this week, tomorrow Thursday September 8.

On Monday September 5, Lansdowne library held a storytelling session for pupils of the Busy Bee’s creche as well as a special storytelling session for the Little Paradise creche.

National Book Week was established in response to a 2007 study into the book-reading habits of adult South Africans.

“This study and subsequent research revealed South Africans do not have a strong reading culture, which is alarming,” said the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for community services Anda Ntsodo.

“The results further highlighted how our reading culture is a barrier to the country’s development plans because reading and literacy are at the heart of personal growth and community development.

“Having as few as 20 books in the home has a significant impact in terms of propelling a child to higher levels of education,” said Mr Ntsodo.

Ms Ahmed said it was important to introduce books to children at an early age to develop their literacy skills as early as possible.

“Parents should read to their children to develop their imagination and build their vocabulary by exposing them to words which will help them later on,” said Ms Ahmed.

She added that children should learn to love reading books and not see it as an effort.

“I want children to read books for pleasure not just because they have to or for school purposes. A lot of parents associate reading with school, saying their children aren’t reading because it’s exams or it’s school holidays. They should allow their children to read a book after a day of studying which will help them to wind down before bedtime,” she said.

Fatima Daniels, librarian in charge, said reading should become a family activity in the home.

“Lots of parents come into the library on a Saturday with all their children and choose books together.

“This is what we are trying to spread across households. In this way, children develop curiosity and asks questions,” said Ms Daniels.

Ms Ahmed said reading should be pleasurable and exciting so children come to like it.

“Sometimes we put drama into the story and use props that are easy to make. The children enjoy it because it’s different to just reading from the book,” she said.

She also said parents should keep up with the levels of reading from as early as possible and their children should meet reading criteria from the start of their school careers.

Other libraries, which will also host events for National Book Week include Bridgetown library which will have a mentorship and leadership programme by the YMCA every Tuesday and Thursday at 3.30pm, for youths from the ages of 13 to 21; the chess club meets Wednesdays at 3.30pm and Fridays at 2pm; and a youth hip hop club every Wednesday at 3.30pm.

The library also partnered with Bridgetown’s Got Talent event, and the final will be held on Heritage Day, Saturday September 24, at the Nantes Park in Bridgetown.

Manenberg library will hold a marketing drive, today, Wednesday September 7, to advertise the various services at the library.

National Book Week is also known as Fine free Week and in this time people are allowed to return outstanding books without being fined.