The first week of September is National Book Week in South Africa. Government statistics show that only 14% of the South African population are active book readers, and only 5% of parents read to their children. National Book Week is therefore a chance to raise awareness of the benefits of reading as well as to take positive action to increase the number of readers nationwide.
In Masiphumelele we managed to achieve this thanks to help from Little Libraries and their founder Camille Quine, who visited three pre-schools with us on Monday. Little Libraries started as an initiative to help a Cape Town school to acquire more books. As Camille’s friends came on board and overseas sponsorships were acquired she has been able to considerably expand the scheme. During her time in Masiphumelele this week she was able to deliver the fiftieth Little Library. You can hear Camille talking about the project to Africa Melane at 567 Cape Talk here.
A little library is a small bookshelf that contains about 120-140 children’s books. The bookcases have been decorated with bright patterns by volunteers to appeal to the children. They are filled with books with hard pages so that children can learn to handle books, as well as brightly illustrated stories with short sentences that the caregivers can read to their audience and translate into Xhosa. This is important because in many poor communities children can arrive at primary school not knowing how to handle a book and never having had a story read aloud to them.
Camille previously visited Masiphumelele to select three pre-schools with a particular need, as well as the commitment and staffing to make the scheme a success. Three pre-schools were chosen – Kiddies Corner (seen in the photographs here), Masincedisane pre-school (recently reopened following a devastating fire) and the Home of Love (recently refurbished by a collaboration with FACE-UK and Masicorp). On Monday Camille was joined by Carol Hanks and Fiona Maitland from Masicorp to hand over the little libraries.
In each location there are experienced staff who will ensure that the children get the most out of the books they have received. Fiona Maitland is the project manager of our Seedlings ECD programme in Masiphumelele and will be monitoring the usage of the books and mentoring of the pre-school staff in each location. The staff are helped in the regular reading of the books and encouraged to use English and Xhosa in an interactive way. This was the perfect start to National Book Week and we would like to express our thanks to the Little Libraries and their sponsors for making a lasting difference to each of these pre-schools.