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Education Worldwide


Interview with Jean Williams

Managing director of Biblionef South Africa

2009-6-22

Jean Williams

Reading promotion in South African schools is normally subject to teaching languages and literacy. The teaching of reading ideally takes place in the child`s local indigenous language and after three years, the English language will be added to this. The school children`s lack of reading skills is a serious problem in South Africa. Biblionef donates books for children who are unable to purchase books, provides funds for the printing of books in African languages, and prepares Braille and large print books for the visually impaired children attending their special schools and acquires donations to finance the projects.


1. Are there any official educational goals of reading promotion in your country?
Yes, there are lots. According to the DoE Strategic Plan 2007–2011, which is the Education department’s latest information on this topic, the main goals are:
1.) Policy and strategy development to promote literacy in schools, e.g. the National Reading Strategy
2.) Teacher support resources to improve teaching of literacy in schools by e.g. a Reading Toolkit
3.) Learner support resources to promote literacy in schools, such as the 100 Storybooks Project
4.) the Language-in-Education policy to ensure that wherever possible, children are afforded the opportunity to learn in their mother tongue at least until Grade 6 and that should the LoLT (Language of Learning and Teaching) that will be used from Grade 7 to Grade 12 be different from the mother tongue, learners will be fluent in the LoLT by Grade 7.

2. Is reading promotion mainly an element of native-language class or do you have any explicit classes for reading promotion?
Reading promotion in South African schools is normally done as part of teaching languages and literacy. The teaching of reading ideally takes place in the child’s local indigenous language and after three years, the English language will be added to this. However, a lot of African people now want their children to start their schooling in English, although English is not the child’s mother tongue language. They feel that English is the language that would open up job opportunities in the future. A lot of children actually struggle to get through the first few years of school as they did not have the necessary pre-literacy skills when they started school.

3. Have you got any experience concerning the promotion of reading with children of low income families? Which kind of measures would you recommend?
Teaching reading in school is still the best measure.

4. Would you please give a brief description (about 5 sentences) of the main focus of activities of your organization?
1.) Donating books to children’s organisations that are unable to purchase books.
2.) Source funds to print more books in the African Languages.
3.) Find alternative ways how our beneficiaries can keep their books safe and secure if they lack bookshelves (steel trunks, sea containers) and promote covering of our new books to extend their shelf life.
4.) Provide Braille and big print books to the visually impaired children attending their special schools.
5.) Writing fundraising proposals to prospective donors to enable us to do the four above activities.

5. Which measures of reading promotion addressed to pupils by organizations of your country do you consider especially effective?

The school children’s lack of reading skills is a big problem in South Africa. There is no single method or single combination of methods that can successfully teach all children to read. Therefore, teachers must have a strong knowledge of multiple methods for teaching reading and a strong knowledge of the children in their care so they can create the appropriate balance of methods needed for the children they teach. Any one or a combination of several methodologies will succeed provided that teachers are involved and that the programme is effectively implemented, with frequent learner assessments.

Interview: Wiebke Czybulka, Stiftung Lesen


See also: Promoting Reading in South Africa

 
 

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