For many parents, life is a struggle for survival, and reading is simply not a priority. In addition, many were excluded from education or the victims of sub-standard education that left them barely literate. Even if they wanted to, they are often not able to read to their children, or help them with their homework.
The result is that children grow up in homes without books, in a culture where reading is not practiced and not valued. Apart from the obvious importance of mastery of the language of instruction as a prerequisite for educational success, reading also broadens children’s world-view, fosters critical and analytical thinking, increases general knowledge and even cultivates empathy. These are essential skills in a society where we are increasingly bombarded with information and misinformation. A lack of these skills results in a narrow world-view, and leaves one susceptible to exploitation by unscrupulous advertisers, politicians and other vested interests.
Very importantly, it also robs children of the pure joy of reading and its limitless scope to exercise the imagination.
In the Hangberg community, ABC for Life makes a very important contribution to fostering a culture of reading among children through its “Love of Reading Programme”, offered in English and Afrikaans.
The programme is entirely run by volunteers, who pair with learners to read from carefully selected graded reading books. The learners receive a lot of personal attention, and are not subject to the classroom pressure of keeping up with their peers or struggling to read aloud in front of a group. They learn to read at their own pace in an environment where reading is free from anxiety. As a result, they learn much more than they would in the classroom, and experience a real sense of achievement. It increases their self-esteem, and before long, they read purely for the love of it.