Adult illiteracy, Adult Literacy, Change the world, Community resource, Emotional well being, Foundations for academic success, Illiteracy, language literacy, Literacy, Reading, Reading aloud, Reading crisis, Reading culture

The Joy of Reading Aloud to ‘M’

A dream scenario with a floating piece of land on which stands an elephant and a car being driven by a giraffe.

It is not just children that need to be read to.

I read aloud to ‘M’ three times a week. This is one of the most precious times during my week and I wish I had more time to offer her. We are currently reading a book about Sawubona animal sanctuary that is being taken away from the family that founded it. It is about the relationship between a young girl, her grandmother, a game warden, the animals they care for and the man who is trying to take away everything that they have built. I read this story aloud to her.

As I read ‘M’ is riveted, entranced, filled with wonder and oozing need. I feel it pulling at me. I don’t think anyone has ever read to her before. Can you imagine that? Watching her unfold as we go through this reading experience together is magical to me. Although she is a woman, not a child, she generally sits facing me and while I read she does not take her eyes off me. I realized this the second time I read to her. I looked up after two long pages to find her frowning in concentration and focus, leaning forward, her eyes intense and wanting, pulling at me. By the end of our reading session she stretched as if coming out of a long dream. She was grinning uncontrollably and could not stop saying how much she had enjoyed it. She did not want to stop.

Over time, her intensity and anxiety around understanding has lessened and now I find her face more relaxed and fluid, her expression changing along with mine, her comprehension growing. I stop every now and again to check that she understands or to explain a word or phrase that I feel needs clarification. We move on.

Hooked on books

To this day ‘M’ still watches my face like a hawk, for any change in expression, trying to eek out every bit of understanding that she can. But now there are added emotions – WONDER, ANTICIPATION, BREATHLESSNESS for what comes next, PLEASURE and JOY. This is where I wanted to be with her. In a place where she experiences the sheer PLEASURE of reading and storytelling – the MAGIC and the DESPERATENESS of needing to know what comes next. This is what turns people into readers. She is hooked. For life. After years of teaching, I know the signs.

‘M’ is a young South African woman who did not finish her education. Sadly, she was forced to drop out of school very early due to family circumstances. We all know this South African tale very well and we know, even better, the consequences thereof.

‘M’ moved to Jozi a while back and has just started her working career, following in her mother’s footsteps. The only problem is that she struggles a great deal with communication, which means she will always struggle to get work and to keep a job. I decided to offer her reading classes as she lives in close proximity. I have discovered that she is very keen to learn and to perhaps complete her schooling at a later stage.

‘M’ has turned out to be an avid learner. She practices reading at home even when she hasn’t been given homework. We took a trip to the library, a first-time experience for her, and she became a member there and then. She has been a bit intimidated by the staff, as the librarians are quite stern, but I think she is now feeling confident enough to visit on her own. She loves the fact that she can go shopping for books for free.

Playing it forward

What is important to note though is that in teaching, reading aloud & doing remedial reading with ‘M’, I know that I am not teaching just one person. She is young and does not yet have children, but I know that when she does have children she will ensure that they also join the library. She will set an example by reading herself. She will be a mother that passionately reads to her kids. I know that she will read to them every single day that she possibly can. I know that she knows that this could change the trajectory of a person’s life. What we are doing in our lessons now is going to seep into the future, develop a life of its own, and have a positive impact on more than one individual’s life. ‘M’ knows the value, magic and joy of reading to someone and the power that it has. She will use that power going forward.

Many people regard reading aloud as something that you only do with very young children. This is absolutely not true. Research tells us that there is much value in reading aloud to older children – even those in their late teens. Truth be told, we all enjoy a good story.

The benefits of reading aloud

Reading aloud to someone develops their auditory skills and builds and grows vocabulary and comprehension. It is an integral part of becoming a fluent reader and a literate person. Therefore, if an adult has not learned to read it is really important that they are read to by someone. This way they can be exposed to words and phrases that they are not yet able to read for themselves. Having opportunities to build & expand vocabulary is just as important and being able to read. This together with Buddy Reading (Phono-Graphix terminology advocated by Jenny Taylor of Read for Africa), where you support a learner who is reading aloud, you can make a world of difference to a persons literacy levels in a short space of time.

The befits of reading aloud to children, tweens, teens and adults

  • Positive modeling of pronunciation
  • Positive modeling of tone, intonation and expression
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Improves comprehension
  • Improves listening skills
  • It helps with discussing difficult issues with older kids
  • It’s a way to work through the classics with older kids
  • It’s a way to introduce different genres with older kids
  • It sparks curiosity
  • It contributes to a thirst for knowledge & learning
  • It’s good for bonding
  • It is very satisfying and enjoyable
  • It is a stress relief for older kids

The challenge

If every literate person in South African could take on one fellow illiterate or semi-literate South African in their immediate environment, and humbly dedicate 1-2 hours a week to improving their literacy levels by reading to them, we could, despite our Government and a broken education system, make an enormous change in our country. Building a literate nation cannot be left up to our teachers and a few volunteers. The task is too great for them as this requires many many hours of one-to-one time and teachers in South Africa do not have that luxury, unfortunately. It needs to be done on a massive scale, with everyone who is capable of reading, playing their part.

ARE YOU UP TO THE CHALLENGE?

Further Reading

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can meet your needs.

Community resource, Family life, Foundations for academic success, Literacy, Parenting, Pre-reading, Reading

Join a public library in South Africa today.

Library shelves with books on them

Join a public library- it’s easy.

What you will need to join a public library

  • ID documents
  • Proof of residence
  • A legal guardian must accompany a child who wants to join
  • Children will need to show their birth certificates

If you have all the correct documents

  • A library card will be issued to you. 
  • In some provinces you have to wait for 5 days after application before you can collect your library card.
  • For those wishing to take four or less books at any one time, membership is FREE.
  • For those wanting to take more than four books, it will cost +/- R30 per year for membership. 
  • The librarian will explain the rules to you.

Libraries improve community literacy levels

Libraries are community hubs that allow for leisure & education, giving community members access to books, magazines and in some cases audio-visual materials. In communities where residents are unable to afford books, the local library can play a very important role in developing and improving literacy levels within the community. Libraries are an invaluable resource and they are often under-utilised.

When you join a public library you will discover that many libraries run reading and storytelling sessions on a weekly basis as well as during during the holidays. Find out where your local library is and what activities they offer.

I’d like to tell you a bit about some of the wonderful libraries I have experienced.

Sandton Public Library

I personally love the Sandton Library, located on Nelson Mandela Square. It is a beautifully lit, multi-storey space with lots of interesting nooks and crannies. A variety of seating and tables to work at throughout the building, make it the perfect place to spend some down time or do some research.

There is a separate section for children. Pre-school children have their own enclosed room with a conveniently located bathroom right there.

The staff are wonderfully friendly and helpful. As libraries go it is well worth a visit. They do run special events for children during the holidays, which they advertise on their entrance boards.

Emmarentia Public Library

The Emmarentia Library on Barry Hertzog Avenue is a small, almost quaint space with convenient parking. I love this library. It is frequented by many children living in the area.

The librarians are friendly and are very keen to get community involvement going. Speak to them for further information or if you have fantastic ideas to share.

Check opening times here.

Johannesburg Main Library

Johannesburgs public library – known as the Johannesburg Main Library – is based in the city centre, in Market Street. It has over 1.5-million books in its collection and has a reported membership of over 250 000. It was first opened in 1935. Due to planned extensive upgrades it closed in 2009 for three years, and was opened again in 2012.

When visiting you will see a beautiful, Italianate structure sitting across the road from the ANC’s Luthuli House. There is a coffee shop located on the premises. The toilets, lifts, electrics and air-conditioning were upgraded in 2009. The new library contains three floors. Of the three floors, the first two floors are a literacy and numeracy centre. There are desks to work at and free internet access is available.

Check opening times here.

Port Elizabeth City Library

This library is one of my all time favourites. I spent much time here as a student and later as an adult, mainly because I loved the building so much. Each time I return to Port Elizabeth I make a point of popping in.

Unfortunately, for now, it is being renovated, and renovations should be completed in 2021. It is the only historic building built as a public library that is still operating as a public library today.

Currently closed for renovations.

Further reading

To read my last article called “Develop a culture of reading in your home”, which is Part 3 in a series of articles, please click here.

To explore working with Lianne in Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a free consultation to discuss how she can meet your needs.