Soweto community members, including learners and teachers from various schools, gathered at Regina Mundi Church on 23 April 2017, to mark the 22nd World Book and Copyright Day (WBD). The Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Mothsekga, used this international day of commemoration to promote the Read to Lead Campaign in the area and to encourage learners to adopt reading as part of their daily routine. A trolley library was also donated to the church to increase access to books for residents.
In the South African context, the WBD national celebrations are co-ordinated by the Centre for the Book, an Outreach Unit of the National Library of South Africa, mandated to promote a culture of reading, writing and publishing in all local languages and easy access to books for all. In 1995, the UNESCO proclaimed 23 April as WBD, to raise awareness about the importance of reading; to reach out and give access to books; to educate people to take care for their library facilities and to celebrate books.
The DBE Director for LTSM Policy Development and Innovation, Ms Kulula Manona, thanked the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) and the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy for being part of the celebration. Ms Manona further stated that a reading habit is the most critical phenomenon that can be used to increase learner vocabulary, saying that schools must be at the forefront to drive a reading revolution. Ms Manona pleaded with the private sector and members of the public to donate books to schools for learners to have access to books. “Books contain wisdom and knowledge; it is therefore the responsibility of everyone to nurture a culture of reading in their respective communities,” remarked Ms Manona.
In her address, Minister Motshekga mentioned that South Africans should value the importance of reading in their lives. “Adult people should be role models as avid readers to inspire young people to develop a passion for reading,” highlighted the Minister.
Minister Motshekga stated that a reading culture is a binding constraint within society, adding that “we have to stand up and promote reading in our homes to help our children to read books daily. It is critical that our children read for pleasure and for information to improve their literacy skills.” The Minister also pointed out that the Department will work with Provinces to encourage Foundation Phase teachers to spend quality time teaching to improve the level of literacy and numeracy in public schools. “Kids who develop correct skills in their first five years of schooling are likely to achieve excellent results in the Senior Phase. It is true that readers are leaders; hence various research studies have confirmed that children who read are always ahead of their counterparts. Our children are not performing at the level they should merely because they lack a reading culture,” explained Minister Motshekga. The Minister urged parents to read to their children and advised those who can’t read to ask their children to read books to them. The Minister went on to say that, “schools need to cultivate reading corners and encourage learners to join reading clubs. I therefore call upon all South Africans to become the ambassadors of the Read to Lead Campaign to promote a reading revolution in this country,” concluded Minister Motshekga.