Fostering a love of reading
EU-funded Reading and Leadership Strengthening in South African Schools programme helps improve learning outcomes for primary school learners.
The pandemic exacerbated the quality of reading by learners in South Africa and there are concerns that the country has reached a "reading crisis" and is now behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in this regard.
A love of reading opens the door to adventures, learning new things and a whole host of key language skills such as speech development and vocabulary building. There is compelling evidence that primary school children who read in their mother tongue have considerably lower dropout rates while also making education more accessible and enjoyable for children.
Interventions such as the Reading and Leadership Strengthening in South African Schools (REALS-SA) are now more critical than ever and can play a significant role in ensuring that children benefit from a quality education. REALS-SA was launched in April 2021 and has been implemented in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. Aimed at supporting the Department of Basic Education to improve learning outcomes for primary school learners, REALS-SA is funded by the European Union and managed by UNICEF and the National Educational Collaboration Trust (NECT)
The Reading Recovery component of the programme includes the provision of 650 primary schools with 50 new reading books for each grade. These books are a mix of storybooks for reading for pleasure and graded readers for learning to read.
To document the impact of this programme, the UNICEF team visited Tholisu Junior Primary School in Umlazi, south of Durban and met with learners, educators, the Principal, members of the School Governing Board and representatives of the Provincial Department of Education. In the images below and in this short film, the positive impact of this life-changing programme is clear as the joy of reading comes to life.