READ to RISE seeks to inspire children to read by giving them access to new, high quality books. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - Do you remember the first book you owned? Perhaps it was Bible stories for children, or if you are from a certain generation one from the prolific author Enid Blyton. Maybe it was Harry Potter.

Whatever it was, that first book that was yours to keep forever is for many bookworms what sparked a love of reading.

The non-profit organisation READ to RISE agrees. “Book ownership can ignite a love for reading,” says READ to RISE executive director, Taryn Lock.

READ to RISE is a non-profit organisation that promotes youth literacy in under-resourced communities. The NPO says that according to a Stats SA survey - 5 out of 10 South African households do not own books for leisure.

They, therefore, seek to inspire children to read by giving them access to new, high quality books.

“We believe that children who read, will excel at school and go on to become constructive citizens,” says Lock.

READ to RISE's interactive programmes for pupils in the foundation phase are divided into three components: book ownership, mini-libraries and class visits. 

To date, they have conducted programmes in over 1 800 classes and given out over 96 000 new books to pupils in communities such as Mitchells Plain, Soweto and Makhado.

The books which are used in the programme are from the Oaky series which are inspirational stories written by South African award-winning poet, Athol Williams, who grew up in Mitchells Plain. 

The stories have positive life lessons about friendship and change, being brave. finding your true purpose and being happy.

"In Mitchells Plain, children face many challenges including gangs and drugs. We believe that children need to read to ‘rise’ despite their circumstances," says Lock.

READ to RISE also addresses the absence of libraries at schools or within communities with their mini-library, which is a brightly coloured bookshelf containing 50 new, age-appropriate, covered reading books in a mix of languages that reflects the children’s home languages. 

The mini-library is placed in the classroom in schools and managed by the teacher, who is now able to ensure that learners are reading the required number of books per year and can monitor their literacy progress.

"A critical part of our programme is that we do not just drop books and mini-libraries off at schools, rather, along with volunteer readers, we personally visit every classroom to which we contribute. This is central to our efforts to inspire learners to read and to create excitement about learning," says Lock.

"We have designed a highly interactive session which engages learners in reading and comprehension. We use brightly coloured posters and props, we read to the learners and conduct a reading session with them. Lastly we use song to instil the excitement about reading."

In 2018, READ to RISE plans to continue working with all 45 public primary schools in Mitchells Plain, 20 primary schools in Soweto, and five schools in Makhado. 

"We conduct two class programmes per class per year – and hope to excite children about reading."

They estimate that approximately 20 000 learners will benefit from the READ to RISE programmes this year.

The NPO relies on sponsorships from individuals, trusts and corporates to conduct classroom programmes at schools. For only R50, a pupils will benefit from the programme and receive a new storybook to take home.

Keen to help? There are four ways to help READ to RISE expand their reach and help even more young South Africans in their quest for literacy.

* VOLUNTEER: Join READ to RISE on classroom visits, book distribution and simply spread the love for reading.

* SPONSOR: You could also sponsor books or a mini-library for one or more classes to a school of your choice.

* DONATE: Make monthly or once-off financial contributions or help fund the operations.

The organisation's bank details are:

Let’s Read to Rise

First National Bank

Account No. 624 6009 0443

Branch code: 260231

Swift code: FIRNZAJJ

* BECOME A READ to RISE AMBASSADOR: Raise funds for books and organise volunteers to read books to children in a school of your choice.

** As part of our #WeCareWednesdays campaign, IOL features organisations that need a helping hand. If you would like us to feature your organisation, please send an email to [email protected]

Read more: 

#WeCareWednesdays: Focused on turning TEARS to healing