By Shanice Naidoo
Cape Town – With the power of imagination you can go anywhere.
In the children’s book Fly, Everyone, Fly the character Afrika imagines that he is a pilot and can fly anywhere. He later teaches his friends the beauty of this by using their imagination to go anywhere they like.
This year the Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, has brought a special story to children to celebrate World Read Aloud Day (WRAD). In the first year, 2013, the campaign reached 13 000 children and last year, the goal was to read aloud to 3 million children in a single day.
Nal’ibali celebrates WRAD on February 3, to draw attention to the importance of reading aloud to children in their mother tongue. The NGO commissions a brand new story – best suited for reading aloud to primary school children – and translates it into all 11 official South African languages.
This is an ongoing campaign to urge parents, teachers and caregivers to read aloud to the children in their lives.
This year’s story is Fly, Everyone Fly! by Sihle Nontshokweni, the best-selling children’s author of Wanda. She said sharing stories with children can help them become resilient and brave in real-world situations.
“The beauty of stories is their immersive nature, they allow children to enter a world in which they believe. In that sacred world, they can find the language and tools they need to deal with the pressures of the external world.
“This is a global call on the power of reading. In this story a young boy from a rural background imagines that he is a pilot. This power of imagination allows him to dream of a world beyond his experience. It is the upliftment of children to imagine their own future before they get to experience it,” Nontshokweni said.
Nontshokweni will be giving a special reading of the story, live on Nal’ibali’s Facebook page(@nalibaliSA) at 1pm on the day. Caregivers and their children are invited to join the digital read aloud not only to hear the story, but to engage with the author and each other too.
Another champion of reading, Christina Nomdo, the Western Cape Children’s Commissioner, will also be giving a virtual reading of the story on the campaign’s page. The commissioner will be specifically highlighting the power of stories to set children up for success in school and life.
Nal’ibali’s head of communication Ben Rycroft said: “Many caregivers do not realise the benefit of reading and sharing stories with children this young, but it is the children who were read to when they were very little who perform better in school, as they will have better developed their memories, vocabularies and comprehension skills.“
He said that reading aloud to children teaches them the value of books, starts discussions and conversations, builds a bond between the reader and the audience, motivates children to read books above their current reading ability, it expands their knowledge, their imaginations, their ability to focus and confidently articulate their ideas out loud and it is the tipping point to improve education in South Africa.