University of Pretoria: Staffer writes book to be read by three million children on World Read Aloud Day 2021

UP staff member and author Sihle Nontshokweni has collaborated with Nal’ibali SA, South Africa’s national reading-for-enjoyment-campaign, and has written the story that will be read by three million South African children as part of the global World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) on Wednesday 3 February.

WRAD is in its twelfth year and aims to celebrate the power of reading aloud, and the impact this can have on children and adults alike. Nal’ibali and Nontshokweni are aiming to have a record-breaking three million South African children reading her book on the day.

The book is the second for Nontshokweni, a UP staff member from the Department of Education Innovation, and follows the best-selling success of her debut children’s book, Wanda, co-authored with Mathabo Tlali. She says the new book, Fly everyone (Afrika), is a story about the power of imagination and dreaming. As part of the national campaign around WRAD, the book has been translated into all of South Africa’s official languages.

“It is about a young boy named Afrika, who dreams of becoming a pilot. While he has never flown in an aeroplane before, he uses his imagination to fly and travel. He is fascinated by this alternate world, and even though he rides on a bus to visit his gogo, in his mind he flew, and wishes to tell all his friends about it.”

She says storytelling has played an important role in her own development. “As a child, I experienced oracle storytelling. My cousins and I would sit under my grandmother’s voice, fascinated and captured by the stories she would tell us. I later would visit the library, but did not read extensively then. My reading picked up when I started reading African fiction. These books resonated with me because of the characters whose life closely resembled mine. Because of this, I now write children’s books, to capture a young audience that can open a book and immediately find resonance in the characters.”

In preparation for the day, Nal’ibali has created a useful tip sheet that gives teachers and guardians information on why they should help children read aloud, and the long-term benefits associated with reading.

Nontshokweni adds that reading complements all learning and education. “When kids can thoroughly read it makes it easier for them to delve into other text content without struggling, especially under COVID-19 where less teaching and learning is happening in the classroom. Reading can strengthen their vocabulary, and contribute to their long-term academic success. Reading helps children with self-expression and confidence, ultimately it improves their grammar and they can become better writers in the future. Reading aloud to your children is a profound exchange.”

She says the more children read stories that they identify with, the more it becomes a satisfying activity that further ignites the will and passion to learn, expand their vocabulary and language abilities, and ultimately encourage them to read for enjoyment and self-fulfilment.

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