SOUTH AFRICA’S READING CRISIS IS A LEARNING DISASTER!

Last month we discussed how babbling to babies boosts their brains. We learned that language is one of the most important foundations for brain development and babies start to learn language from birth by hearing the language of the important people in their lives who love, care, interact and play with them. The more parents talk to their children from birth, the faster those children’s language skills grow and the better their intelligence develops. Brain development is cumulative and the more children know and understand, the faster they learn and understand even more! We also know that children’s vocabulary and understanding of language underpins their ability to learn to read, write and do maths.

South Africa performs really badly in international literacy tests, coming last out of 50 countries. The 2016 test results show that 78% of South Africa’s Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning in any language. This has a devastating impact on their ability to learn and do well in school and in life. Children first learn to read and then read to learn. We also know that South Africa has a really poor culture of reading. Only 14% of us are active readers and only 5% of parents read to their children.  And while books are expensive – it’s not all about money. South Africans spend twice as much on chocolate each year than they do on books!

We need to make story-telling and reading books to our children (from birth) one of the most important things we do. Parents and families have an incredibly important role to play in laying the foundations for language, literacy and brain development. As Africans we have a rich cultural heritage of story-telling that we need to pass on to our children. And we all have imaginations and can make up stories. Young children love to hear stories about themselves; about you and your life when you were young; about the people and animals around them. Make story-telling part of your family life. Stories can be told by anyone, any time, any place and often. They are a wonderful way to entertain children as you travel in a bus, taxi or car, or as you wait in a queue at the clinic or shop.

It is also important to introduce your young child to print and books. Initially this might be through recognising road signs like ‘Stop’ and shop names in the neighbourhood. Most important – introduce your little one to his or her written name. We know that books are really important to support children to become literate. Books are expensive, but when parents understand how important books are in helping children learn, there are things they can do. Even parents who struggle with literacy can make picture books out of paper or cardboard with cut out pictures from magazines or packaging. And then there are libraries in almost all towns – and they are free. You just need to join. Then there’s Nal’ibali, the national reading for enjoyment campaign. You will find Nal’ibali on the radio, in newspaper supplements, on the internet – www.nalibali.org  and on your phone – www.nalibali.mobi

Start today! Set your child up for success! Read aloud to your child from the very earliest years until well after he or she can read. Read anywhere and often, at least EVERY DAY .

LOVE, PLAY TALK

Learn more about what you can do to change your child’s future by listening weekly to LOVE, PLAY TALK, the radio programme on Nkomazi FM aired EVERY Thursday from 11 to 11.30am and brought to you by Ilifa Labantwana and RCL FOODS. Each week Nkomazi FM hosts a guest speaker to deal with a different topic to support you, the parent of a young child, give your child the best start in life. The LOVE, PLAY, TALK radio programme is part of the RCL FOODS  sponsored LEAVE NO YOUNG CHILD BEHIND early childhood development initiative in Nkomazi Wards 16 and 19 that aims to ensure every young child in these wards has access to improved quality of essential services so that they get the very best start in life. And you, the parent, have a critically important role to play!

Get more information from the Nkomazi FM website www.nkomazifm.co.za or the Ilifa Labantwana website www.ilifalabantwana.co.za . Do listen every week and give your little one the best start in life!

PAM PICKEN

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST

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