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Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Commemoration of the World Book Day held at the Observatory Junior School, Western Cape Province, 02 March 2017

Programme Director

School Governing Body Chairperson and Members  

School Principal


Learners and Parents

Distinguished Guests


It gives me a great pleasure indeed to be here in the Western Cape again as we embark on the series of events that will ultimately lead to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Book Day to be official commemorated on the 23 April. The main aim of the World Book Day is to encourage children to the pleasures of books and reading.

The 23rd April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO's General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.

As we hold this event in anticipation of the official day of the World Book Day, we are mindful of the fact that our country does not have a reading culture. It is our duty as Government, parents and community at large to inculcate the culture of reading and love of books.

The Director-General of UNESCO Ms Irina Bokova summed it up succinctly when she said: “Books help weave humanity together as a single family, holding a past in common, a history and heritage, to craft a destiny that is shared, where all voices are heard in the great chorus of human aspiration.”

Through anecdotal evidence and scientific research it is now officially accepted that, “a book is a link between the past and the future.”

To the matter in perspective, Programme Director; allow me to read you the official World Book Day Message for 2016. It read thus:

“The book is a bridge between generations and across cultures. It is a force for creating and sharing wisdom and knowledge. A window onto our inner lives, books are also the doorway to mutual respect and understanding between people, across all boundaries and differences. Coming in all forms, books embody the diversity of human ingenuity, giving shape to the wealth of human experience, expressing the search for meaning and expression that all women and men share, that drive all societies forward.”

This message resonates with me as it is a universal message about the importance of and the centrality of books in our lives. We must value books because of their immerse potential to free our minds, and their ability to make us travel to faraway places without leaving the comfort of our homes. In essence books are a force to counter, what Shakespeare called, “the common curse of mankind -- folly and ignorance.”

Books contain migrating words that give us meaning to the very essence of life. Books help us to understand the universal themes of humanity such as democracy, non-racialism, non-sexism, non-discrimination and the place in our societies for social cohesion.

Books are a window to the whole new world – a world characterised by wonder, discovery and newness of ideas. It is universal ideas found in the texts of many a book that shapes the content of our characters so that we may become better citizens. It is only through reading that we begin even in the modest way to understand the Other.

Books help us to shape our thinking, to re-imagine the world in the ways we had never done before. Books are our lifetime companions that will never let us down. Books give us the power to imagine a future that ordinary people who don’t read will never even dream of.

Books are our friend that drives away the extreme feeling of loneliness and pushes to the recesses of our mind the idea that we are alone. Through reading, we begin to imagine and re-imagine a new world.

Books help us to form a community that is engrossed in the discovery, in understanding the mystery of life, and the wonder of a new life yet to be lived.

Books are a treasure to unearth new information, new ideas and help is solving immediate problems that were difficult at first.

Because books are by nature a window to the world – it can even help you to discover new things such as a career, hobby, and, or, literacy interest.

Education researchers have even found that there is a connection between reading and reducing stress of everyday life. Studies show that reading reduces stress. The participants in this study only needed to read silently for a few minutes to slow down the heart and ease tension in the muscles.

More importantly, researchers reckon that reading improves ones memory. Basically you become an encyclopaedia - a memory bank of useful facts about life, ideas, careers, wealth creation, new cultures, and more. The benefit of this increased reading activity helps to keep the memory sharp and the learning capacity agile.

However, we can lest underestimate the fact that books are at times have an extraordinary ability to entertain ourselves. So reading does in fact have an entertainment value that comes at the fraction of the cost of normal entertainment activities.

Most importantly readers have lower propensity for violence, discrimination and anti-social behaviours. It is no exaggeration to say only those who read vociferously will reap the fruits of liberty. It is people who are well read who will in future run multinational corporations, and multinational institutions such as the United Nations. Indeed, readers are leaders.

Programme Director; to deal head-on with low literacy levels in our society and schools, we have conceptualised and launched a campaign popularly known as Read to Lead. This is a cradle-to-grave reading campaign.  It is a four-year campaign to create a national focus to improve the reading abilities of all South African children. It seeks to provide energy as well as direction and inspiration across all levels of the education system as well as in homes and the public domain to ensure that by 2019 all learners are able to demonstrate age appropriate levels of reading.

The campaign is a national response to national, regional and international studies that have shown over a number of years that South African children are not able to read at expected levels, and are unable to execute tasks that demonstrate key skills associated with Literacy.

campaign will provide teachers and schools with clear directives on the Department of Education’s expectations Read to LeadProgramme Director, the of schools and teachers to achieve the expected levels of reading performance. The campaign will also ensure that support is provided towards the achievement of the campaign’s objectives.

Getting young people to read and write for school, for leisure, and even in the world of work, is a critical aspect of the development of the social fabric of our country.  We need to ensure that South Africa becomes a reading nation. As part of the Read to Lead campaign, we encourage the establishment of reading clubs especially in schools and teachers’ Centres. To date, approximately 400 reading clubs have been established at schools across the country. I strongly urge this school and community to establish if you have not yet done so – a reading club. 

I thank you.


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Written By: WebMaster WebMaster
Date Posted: 4/4/2017
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