Johannesburg - According to the PIRLS Literacy 2016 South African Highlights Report, around 78% of South African Grade 4 learners do not meet international criteria and hence do not have basic reading abilities by the end of the Grade 4 school year, compared to only 4% of learners globally.
Early interventions targeting children in early life, according to Gundo Mmbi, school achievement manager at Spark Schools, may be the most effective long-term way to boost literacy abilities.
Mmbi said World Book Day is a symbolic day for literature, to raise awareness and foster children’s growth, as readers promote a life-long love of literature.
“Spark Schools observed this day on April 23 by creating awareness around how reading helps expand vocabulary, develop comprehension, and foster a wider understanding of cultural idioms and historical contexts with scholars.
“Children can acquire basic reading skills by being exposed to books and being in a reading environment.
“When children are read to from a young age, they are motivated to read by themselves, and reading skills are acquired when children have a rich understanding and application of phonics and know why they are reading, which is why it is important that learners can read for meaning.”
Mmbi added that reading is crucial for children’s development because it helps their cognitive and social development and fast-tracks their understanding of the world around them.
“Their communication skills are improved by exposure to creative uses of language, and they can express themselves better as they would be exposed to a wide range of vocabulary. Through story reading, they can be a part of a world that is far from their reach and can travel through their imagination via words in a book,” said Mmbi.
Spark Kempton Park’s assistant principal, Annerike van der Merwe, said: “Spark Schools’ goal is to equip scholars with resources to succeed in literature.
“One of these ways is through our mobile library, where parents and community members can donate books to the school. One of our Grade 6 parents donated the book ‘I Am a Child of Africa’ by Bev Alho to our school as part of our World Book Day activity. Bev joined us at school to read the book,” said Van der Merwe.
"This book is important because it encourages children to use their imagination, which is something that is vital in their development, and it also highlights the elements that make our country and its people so special. Our children need to be positive because they are our future," said Alho.