The DBE convened its very 1st Reading Roundtable earlier in 2015. At the Reading Roundtable, we engaged with various education stakeholders on ways and means to ignite the Reading Revolution.
The Reading Roundtable discussions were held under the theme “A Reading Nation is a Winning Nation”. Throughout the world, school education systems are focusing on literacy and numeracy initiatives as a means to improving the performance and learning outcomes. A learner’s ability to read, write and calculate is considered a vital toolkit in the pursuit of success and in managing life in general.
In this regard, we have moved with requisite speed to initiate many initiatives among them, the Drop all and Read Campaign. At the heart of this campaign is that all our schools have been advised through a circular to observe at least 30 minutes per week of mandatory reading as part of this programme. Beyond the reading at schools, we are encouraging families, churches and communities to reinforce the Drop All and Read Campaign at home and at various community engagements.
Our ultimate prize is to make Drop All and Read Campaign a regular established part of both children and parents’ daily routine.
At the core of our efforts is our deliberate determination that in-order to improve literacy and reduce the number of learner drop outs, we must make reading fashionable. However, we cannot do this without providing fully functioning libraries in our schools. We view libraries as a key player because they have a role in almost all of these literacy factors - from access to materials and training to promotion and cooperation. The role of libraries in our view is to offer our learners more than just prescribed books but reading material that will expand their horizon beyond the confines of their schools and villages.
In this regard we have declared Reading Library and Information Services (RLIS) an apex priority.
Hence in July 2015, in a bid to make reading fashionable, we launched the 1 000 School Libraries Campaign to target all needy schools per year from 2015 until 2019. At the launch event held at uVuyo Primary School, Dobsonville, Soweto, we announced that by the end of July 2015, the construction of 18 new libraries (two in each province) will be completed and resourced with the required reading materials. We said all new libraries will be Information Communication Technology (ICT) enabled and compliant. We are glad to announce that the target has been met.
As part of this project [1000 School Libraries Campaign] we also held a business breakfast to mobilise the private sector and non-governmental organisations to partner with us in-order to ensure that all libraries have all required reading materials to make them both viable and sustainable. The support we have received is overwhelming.
We are also hard at work steering the formation of Reading Clubs, Spelling Bee projects as well as Book Flood Campaign throughout the country. We appeal to all who are able to donate at least one book for the benefit of our young learners. Book collections points are scattered all around the major shopping malls throughout Gauteng.
In addition in June 2015, 1000 schools offering Grades 1-3 implemented the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA). The EGRA is an international benchmarked assessment which assesses reading proficiency through letter sound recognition, word recognition and passage and comprehension. Over and above this, the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) now gives high weighting to reading and writing skills in Grades R to 12. We have also completed the implementation of the Reading Norms for Grades R-12.
Indeed, we are a country at work. South Africa is today a better place than it was 21 years. However, all our efforts will come to nought if we do not have the full support of parents, caregivers and communities.