Getting SA's Youth to Read

Is it just me or are the kids of South Africa just not reading anymore?

When I think back to my childhood days, the memories that stand out most for me are the ones that involved my parents reading stories to me.

From the sing-and-read-along books, to having story time every night, all of this contributed towards me developing a deep and abiding love for books.

I'd read everything I could get my hands on, and my mom, seeing this, encouraged me even more.

I flew through books like Aesop's Fables, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Rabbit and The Jungle Book in much the same way people consume alcohol - with wild and unbridled abandon.

Books have since grown to mean so much to me, that often people think my reading addiction is an actual problem. It’s not.

What most people don't realise, is that books were the one thing that saved me from a living hell of bullying that formed part of most of my school years.  They were my refuge back then, and they're still my haven today.

Which brings me to the question:

Is it just me or are the kids in South Africa just not reading?

I know that I might be taking this at face value, but whenever I'm on the train, I only see adults reading.

When I'm online, I only see international young readers blogging and talking about books.

And unfortunately, even when I go to the library I don't see as many kids in the library as I used to when I was younger.

Convinced that I was just being paranoid, I decided to ask my Twitter friends what they thought, and it seems that most of them agree with me.

We took to discussing what some of the contributing factors might be and the following points were raised.

1. Are parents still reading to their kids? Do they have enough time to and are they interested in teaching their kids to read?

I know in many areas this is not the case. My mother teaches at a very under-resourced school, filled with children who face tremendous physical and economic challenges. 

Unfortunately, the parents of these kids - many who suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome - rely solely on the teachers to educate their children. They don’t bother helping them with their homework and they most certainly don’t read stories to them. 

2.  Are companies allowing parents enough flexi-time so that they can help and support their kids?

Many companies do try to accommodate employees with children, but this is still mostly seen as a female thing. Where are the dads? Why don’t they ever take time off work to help with child-rearing?

3. Are teachers and schools encouraging their learners to read? And most importantly - what books are being made available as set work?

There's a heap of modern fiction that I just know will appeal to the youth out there, and I can't help but wonder if these learners are being exposed to them or not.

I've got nothing against the classics per se, but I firmly believe that our youth also need to read books where the characters and their stories are something that they can identify with.

4. Kids and teens that have access to technology at an age when they should be reading.

One can argue that technology can promote reading, but it is necessary that parents maintain a balance. 

5. A lack of resources. Is the government doing enough?

I don't think I even need to go into the rage-inducing textbook saga, do I?
 
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think it's an important issue that needs to be raised over and over again.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that more needs to be done to get our budding youth to read? If so, why not share some of your suggestions?

Heck, if I could go around doing presentations for schools and sharing reading recommendations, I would.

So send in your ideas and I’ll put your responses on our site. We need to help raise awareness in any way we can, don’t you think?

Part of the reason I wrote this newsletter, was because I was inspired by a recent initiative that I just found out about. The wonderful folks from RandomStruik publishers are not only doing their bit to encourage young readers to read, but at the same time, they're also offering to give some books away in the process.

They're giving kids and young adults a chance to enter a short story competition where the winning entry will not only win R5 000, but they're also offering to donate a set of books worth R10 000 to the school library of the winner.

I think it's a fantastic initiative of theirs, don't you? For more information, you can head on over here.

This column originally appeared as a newsletter. To sign up for our monthly book club newsletter (you can be one of the lucky readers to win our list of top 10 reads - a giveaway we run on a monthly basis), head on over here.

Follow Tammy on Twitter.

You can also Follow Women24 on Twitter.

- Women24

Read more on: fiction  |  books  |  youth  |  south african  |  reading

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