READ to RISE - Inspiring children to read and giving them access to new books
READ to RISE is a non-profit organisation that promotes youth literacy in South Africa's under-resourced communities. As our name indicates, we firmly believe that children need to read in order to rise in their personal development and contribution to society. Children who love reading, excel at school and go on to become constructive members of society. It all starts with reading.
We aim to address the troubling reality that young children in our communities are not reading as much as they require for their educational development. Children in the foundational phase should be reading around 40 books per year; in our under-resourced communities children are reading only 1 to 2 books per year.
The root causes of this low reading level are:
1. Most children come from homes without books and have never owned a reading book.
2. Most children do not have access to adequately-stocked libraries at their schools or in their communities.
3. Most children are not inspired and motivated to read.
READ to RISE visits classes to inspire children to read and give them access to new, age-appropriate story books.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
We have designed the 3 components of our programme to directly address these root causes of poor reading levels.
1. Book Ownership
Book ownership is an important step towards children’s love of reading. Children who own books and come from homes where books are available perform much better at school. We distribute brightly coloured, high quality books that are educational, entertaining and inspirational.
To address the absence of libraries we created the mini-library, which is a brightly coloured bookshelf containing 50 new, age-appropriate, covered reading books in a mix of languages that reflects the children’s home languages. The mini-library is placed in the classroom in schools and managed by the teacher.
3) Class visits
We do not just drop books and mini-libraries off at schools, rather, along with volunteer readers, we personally visit every classroom. This is central to our efforts to inspire children to read and to create excitement about learning.
We have designed a highly interactive session which engages learners in reading and comprehension. We use books that are inspiring and educational. We use brightly coloured posters and props, we read to the learners and conduct a reading session with them. Lastly we use song to instill excitement about reading.
Since more than 90% of the primary schools in our communities do not have their own library, we designed a classroom Mini-Library with 50 new story books. We also hold a reading competition during the year and at the end of the year we reward the learners who have read the most books from the Mini-Library. This encourages the learners to read.
Founded in September 2013, to date READ to RISE has visited 371 classrooms at 99 primary schools in Mitchells Plain and Soweto, and given out 28,829 new books. This means that 21,129 children now own their own story book and Mini-Libraries have been placed in 254 classrooms.
We've had over 100 people volunteer their time to read to learners at schools or cover books in plastic.
The bookshelves of our Mini-Libraries are manufactured by a local organisation which train disabled individuals to make furniture.
We've had positive feedback from principals, teachers and parents about our programme. J. Phillips, a parent, says she didn't understand the value of a book until "the day my child came home with one of these books, he was so excited. He asked me to read to him, which was something new. What came as the biggest shock was when I finished the story he asked me questions and then explained the story to me in detail. I didn't realise that a book could bring so much joy to a child."
Funding is a big challenge as we rely on sponsorship from individuals and corporates. Long term funding is required in order to have a sustainable impact on the learners in the community.
We require co-operation from principals, teachers and parents to encourage the children to read throughout the year.
We've learnt that children do need books and inspiration. In truth, inspiration is needed by people of all ages, races and social classes. We've had amazing reactions from the learners at our classroom sessions, for many it is the first book that they will own. It is the magic in our classroom sessions created by our interaction with them that inspires children to read... to rise.
We have been amazed by the support that we have received from donors and volunteers. We've learnt that if people share your vision and values, they will support you in amazing ways.
We've also learnt that in order to have a meaningful impact on these children, we need to focus on communities and keep doing our programme at schools. It is also very important that the principals, teachers and parents play their part and encourage learners to read during the year.