Consistently low reading scores among South African children can confirm one thing: the country is undoubtedly facing a reading crisis. In fact, eight out of 10 children in South Africa cannot read properly, and in the Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study in 2016, South Africa ranked last out of 50 countries. While there has not been much improvement in literacy for kids in South Africa in the past, some people are stepping in and banding together to change that by making reading a priority.
The Reading Crisis
South Africa’s reading culture has been weak for many years. Literacy can transform lives, but unfortunately, a lot of students in South Africa are not succeeding in this skill. A scientific study revealed that 27 percent of children under 5 years old are not undergoing proper brain development. It is not uncommon for low-income public schools to overlook the importance of comprehensive reading. Moreover, the study showed that 78 percent of fourth-grade students that it tested could not read for meaning in any language. Many parents do not spend time reading to their children because they are not literate themselves. Another reason why South African children are not succeeding in literacy is that they do not get the opportunity to explore the world of stories due to a lack of quality books and resources. But what if stories could come to them?
Meet the SSRS
The Schools Reading Road Show, better known as the SSRS, aims to make stories accessible to children. Founders Jann Weeratunga and Kim Hunter have organized a traveling group of authors to improve literacy for kids in South Africa. Interacting with local children’s authors can inspire children to read, and this is precisely the goal of the SSRS. Children’s authors, including Fatuma Abdullah, travel around the country visiting underprivileged schools and meeting with students. The children get to listen to the authors read their books, ask questions and even play with puppets that resemble characters from the books!
The SSRS’s hope is that meeting local authors will inspire children and motivate them to start their own reading journey, and maybe even begin writing their own stories. The members’ favorite part about the entire experience is getting to see the children’s eyes light up as they discover the excitement of reading.
The Future of Literacy for Kids in South Africa
This hands-on experience opens up a whole new realm of learning for the students. When the authors visit well-funded areas, they sell their books to students. They then use that money to purchase books for the under-resourced schools. With volunteer groups like the SSRS swooping in to improve literacy for kids in South Africa, the future is optimistic. An ignited curiosity for reading can both inspire and shape the future for many kids.
– Hadley West