"I am aware that I beat my literacy drum to the point of tedium. But one cannot give a child a greater gift than the gift of reading," writes Alex Tabisher in his Literally Yours column.
I am aware that I beat my literacy drum to the point of tedium. But one cannot give a child a greater gift than the gift of reading.

It will open doors and debunk fears about dreaded subjects, and insecurities about life as it is.

I am not talking about producing academics, or writers, or elitists who push their high literacy as acts of inclusion and exclusion. I am talking about equipping our children with the gift of literacy.

What do I mean by literacy? I mean the ability to read. But not as the old notion that resided under the three Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic). Literacy is not a sub-set of reading. The opposite is true.

Reading is a sub-set of literacy. Because literacy is about decoding signs that enables one to negotiate one’s environment safely and meaningfully.

One could travel a road physically and get to one’s destination by just looking at signs that excludes reading.

This includes pictures, colours, patterns, shapes, repetitions, consistencies or inconsistencies.

This is a form of literacy. No overtaking when the white line is unbroken.

We are into mid-year holidays. Your child might have brought home a report. Discuss the evaluation symbols with the child. Try and find out the strengths and weaknesses. Where the child shows flair, try and transfer that gift to the other subjects.

Discuss learning and memory strategies. Use the old tactics of praise and reward. Reduce the curriculum to a reading exercise.

Even if I don’t know an answer, it is vital that I am at least able to read the question.

In this way we can see mathematics as reading, a story told in numbers. Science can be the secrets of life and growth as a story. Geography can be reduced to imaginary travel experiences. Think of the genius of the book Around the world in Eighty Days. It ticks every box in the taxonomy of reading.

Remember the sequence of acquiring reading skills: we first read to the child. Then the child reads with us. Then, magic moment, the child asks for a book or picks one itself.

And your yard-stick is not complexity.

Your aim is fluency. You don’t need any special equipment of artificial environment. You just need contact, communication, a willingness to share and encourage.

The notion that you need to enrol the child in a model C school is as flawed as saying you can become the national rugby captain by attending a school with “Gray” in its name.

Environment plays a part. But we haven’t yet resolved the binary tensions between nature and nurture.

As Alexander Pope states so eloquently: “True ease in writing comes from choice, not chance/As they move easiest who have learnt to dance.”

It’s also true for reading. And Reading.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus