Reading Adventures: Engaging Children In Local Libraries through Reading Clubs
27 March, 2018
Last week, we celebrated South African Library Week. The theme for this year’s Library Week, Libraries – The heart of the community, was truly apt and highlighted the vital role that libraries play in the communities that they serve.
As LIASA (Library and Information Association of South Africa) so rightly said, a library nourishes and sustains a community. It’s more than just a building; it is a means to bolster education, fight unemployment and to create social cohesion. Libraries are essential to a democratic society as they make the basic human right of freedom of access to information a reality. They are spaces of tolerance to all races, genders, classes and ages. They provide access to computers, free space, safer environments, learning materials and books, a quiet space for school children to do their homework and most importantly a team of valuable, knowledgeable librarians. According to Hart, G (2004) in her research article, Public libraries in South Africa: agents or victims of educational change?, the five most common reason why school children visit libraries are:
- To work on a project
- To sit in the library to do homework
- To use library materials to complete an assignment
- To bring back or borrow a book.
- For social reasons
What is rather striking about this research is that libraries are utilised by school children as social spaces. Access to the types of resources and safer spaces that libraries provide is, without question, vital to building literacy and a love of reading in South Africa, while protecting our youth.
In recent findings from a review of The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which measures reading comprehension and also monitors trends in reading literacy, found that 78% of the sample of Grade 4 learners in South Africa were illiterate, that 94% of Grade 4 learners attended school with resource shortages and that Grade 4 learners on average scored lower when they did not have access to a school library (Howie, Combrinck, Roux, Tshele, Mokoena, & McLeod Palane, 2017). Can public libraries in partnership with literacy-focused organisations like help2read bridge this literacy gap?
Over the last month, we have made several visits to libraries in the Western Cape in preparation for the 2018 Reading Adventures programme, which is kindly sponsored by the National Lotteries Commission. Through Reading Adventures, we provide library staff with training to help them develop fun-filled, educational reading clubs at their local libraries. Reading Adventures empowers librarians to help children develop a love of reading and encourage them to make use of the resources available in their local libraries.
In 2013 and 2014, we trained staff from 56 libraries across Gauteng and Western Cape, and are striving to reach and support a similar amount of libraries in 2018.
In the Reading Adventures training, we look at:
- How to read with children
- How to establish a Reading Club
- Activities to use in a Reading Club, such as creative crafting, story creation and bringing children’s literature to life
- Why children may battle with reading
- How to boost self-esteem through reading
Our visits to public libraries this month have reminded us just how valuable and important libraries are to the communities they serve. We also saw first-hand that there is a great deal of work to be done to build a library culture in South Africa.
In every library that we visited, no matter the size, there was a brightly coloured children’s corner intended to draw children in. Unfortunately, these spaces are not always well stocked and could definitely do with more books, as well as arts and crafts resources to enable children to use these spaces in a meaningful way.
Belinda May, a librarian in Hawston who is passionate about drawing children into her library, said that she loves it when the library is filled with children. Belinda always tries to make sure that children feel welcome in the library but noted that this can be challenging at times due to resource shortages and a lack of up-to-date training.
Librarians at the Mount Pleasant Library in Hermanus are highly motivated when it comes to getting the youth into their library. They host reading days at the library specifically designed for local children and do school visits to make it easier for children to take a book out. They have, however, noted that these programmes are difficult to maintain.
We are thrilled to be able to equip librarians from Hawston, Mount Pleasant and more at our first Reading Adventures training of 2018, taking place on 29 March at Zwelihle Public Library from 9:30am to 4pm. Each library that attends the training will receive an arts and crafts pack to use in their Reading Clubs.
We will also be providing Reading Adventures training in Johannesburg and Cape Town throughout the course of 2018.
To book to attend the training on 29th March, or for more information about Reading Adventures and upcoming training, please contact Nikki at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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